About this time last year, I spoke to some education leaders in public and private institutions to understand their experiences after four months of COVID-induced chaos. We talked about the ever-shifting ‘finish line’ that the pandemic presents, and some of the methods and mindsets being adopted to build a more sustainable kind of ‘fitness’ to cope with the longer term impacts.
As lockdowns and restrictions continue to impact campuses and classrooms around Australia, it’s hard to believe we’re still in the thick of it a year later. Perhaps we’re a little wiser now – fatigued and fed up, most certainly – but we’re also building resilience and a kind of ‘fitness’ we never had before.
If you’re looking for a little extra motivation to change up your own ‘teaching fitness’ goals to get through the next little while, you’re in the right place. Whether long-distance running, Lycra-clad aerobics or mellow yoga is your thing, we’ve got your back – and the soundtrack to go with it.
Here I go again (on my own)
🎧 Workout track: ‘Here I go again‘ (Whitesnake, 1982)
As a good friend of mine likes to say, fitness is always better with friends! One of the big learnings from last year was not to try and go it alone, especially when you’re stuck at home and physically distant from everyone.
If you’re struggling, check where you can reach out for support at UTS in Rhiannon Hall’s post from last year. Draw on your mentors, managers and mates as much as you can, but if you need some quiet time, that’s cool too – we’ll call you later.
Roll with the changes
🎧 Workout track: ‘Erase / Rewind‘ (The Cardigans, 1998)
I’ll admit I wasn’t too disappointed when the recent Sydney Half Marathon got cancelled last week; my training was already in tatters after last year was postponed and then this year’s event re-scheduled yet again. Despite my neatly-typed training plan and a strong start, I never got back on track.
We’ve all had so many events, holidays and milestones cancelled over the last 18 months, it’s hard to take any kind of forward planning seriously any more. So now, as Kathryn Ayrton pointed out in her ‘From the frontline‘ article on how academics were coping last year, we need to let go of perfectionism and expectation.
Moving, just keep moving…
🎧 Workout track: ‘Let’s Get Physical‘ (Olivia Newton-John, 1981)
You know how it goes – just one step at a time, right? Just put your trainers on. Just step outside. Just walk to the end of the street. Before you know it you’re on a little jog round the block and feeling better already.
You don’t have to channel the 1980’s aerobics queens and their muscle-bending routines right now. If you can keep your work ticking over, keep showing up and checking in, that’s okay. Now probably isn’t the time to be hard on yourself with impossible deadlines and high expectations.
Run your own race
🎧 Workout track: ‘The Edge of Glory‘ (Lady Gaga, 2011)
We can’t all be sprinters. In fact, some of us are much better suited to the 20k walk (or the 2-metre couch crawl, sometimes). When the rules and restrictions bite, set your own goals that fit your current situation and strengths. What’s the project, task or activity you can control that makes a difference to someone or something now?
Can’t reach your toes? That’s okay!
🎧 Workout track: ‘Just Breathe‘ (Pearl Jam, 2009)
Flexibility and agility have always been important in teaching, but the constant pivots and switches have left some feeling a little too stretched at times. If you can master a headstand and a one-handed tree pose, that’s great! However, to quote online yoga superstar Adriene Mishler (who got me through a few creaky mornings), it’s just as important to ‘find what feels good’, even if you have to modify the moves to get there.
If you’re curious about what ‘sustainable teaching’ can mean and would like to explore ways to re-think your own teaching fitness regime, there are heaps of interesting resources out there. I liked this description offered by Colorado State University Writing Project:
Sustainable teaching is the process of fostering self-compassion and renewal in educators who support the growth and development of students in turn.
Fitter teachers, fitter students, perhaps? We could also change the pace by resisting the temptation to cram in more and more course content, and instead embrace the concept of ‘slow teaching‘ for better learning. There are even ideas to explore on how we can use ‘slow pictures‘ to enable learning, particularly in online learning situations.
Perhaps we don’t need to be first, fittest and fastest, after all?
Feature image by Anupam Mahapatra on Unsplash