Steep Climbs



Yesterday my husband and I went on one of our favorite hikes– it’s in an oceanside nature preserve not far from our home. It is known for its amazing views, well-marked trails and fairly easy terrain. Except for the stairmaster. That is not easy. It is killer. It’s straight up with ginormous steps because of erosion, and it seems to go on forever although it is actually pretty short.

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At the bottom he begins his rocket-like ascent and I say, “See you at the top!” This used to make me angry, and I used to huff and puff and say, “Why do you even bother to walk with me? If we are walking together, we stick together.”

He would explain how much he hates hills, and does anything to make them go away faster. Thus the sprint. He remembers doing the same thing on his bike in road races– leaving riders in his dust on long hills when everyone was tired. He would find strength to kick it and be finished with it sooner. And so he does, each time. I take it easy, stop and breathe and wish my thighs would stop burning, and sometimes I curse my laziness and feel grumpy that I can’t make it up faster.

When I arrive at the top, gasping for air, he always asks if I need a minute. “Nope, let’s go!” And we head off. I love that feeling of being winded but not too tired to keep going. My breathing slides back to less-gaspy after about 30 seconds and we enjoy the views. Yesterday it was cloudy and gray, without much to see. So we focused on walking as fast as we could.


“Hey, we are almost at your favorite part– the part where you kick in the power and start moving.” We were nearing the last leg of the hike. I realized he was right, this was the part where I found energy I didn’t know I had. I loved the smooth and level trails here. It required focus only for speed and power, no fancy footwork.


It made me stop and think about how much this is like my life. I avoid steep climbs, I take them slowly, a bit resentfully. But I love a straightaway- where I know what to do. I love doing that. But climbs are everywhere, hills abound, and taking them on is a part of life. I thought about what my hills were. Getting in shape- seriously. Letting go of my eighteen year old, not just a little but a lot – like she is asking for. Okay, those are personal.

What about my teaching life? What are my hills?

1. Staying on top of my game. That is one for sure, always more to learn, always more to read about, always more to try.

2. Keep what works. Don’t be distracted by shiny things.

3. Embrace technology in meaningful ways (see #2) that enhance student learning.

That number three is a tough one. I definitely slow down on that hill. There is way too much to learn, way too many gadgets to master. Easy to give up in the face of very little technical support. I don’t want to spend hours after school doing the maintenance and trouble shooting that comes with bring technology into my classroom. And then I wonder, is it wrong to slow down and gasp for air? Take some time moving up the hill? Too much time and the app has changed, the device is obsolete, the cable no longer works. But a little time – especially to ensure that the tool hasn’t taken away the meaning of the activity or the process – that seems like a good thing.

That hill is not going away. I can’t pretend to be the kind of climber that sprints up it to get it over with faster. But I can attack it bit by bit. And then I will still have some energy left to kick in on the long paths: the labor part of teaching that requires patience, faith, and stamina with a capital S.

See you at the top!



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