It’s 5:30 a.m. and dark. The air is a crisp 45°F. My bed is warm and cozy, but I’m not in it. Instead, I’m running in the still quiet of the morning.
I was a dancer before I was a runner. I ran a bit in high school and became serious about running in college. I’ve been addicted ever since. I met my husband running my first marathon and wrote my dissertation while I trained for my first ultra marathon. I am deep down in my being a runner. I am the first to say you shouldn’t run if you don’t love it, because it’s hard and painful and tiring.
To me, the most interesting thing about running is not the exercise or the endorphins, but the fact that it makes me a better teacher. Here’s why:
- It keeps me sane
- It gives me great teaching ideas
- It teaches me about the value of getting students up and moving
Reason #1: It Keeps Me Sane
Running is my personal Zen moment. I don’t run with headphones. I only have the music of my feet on the pavement for rhythm and the occasional bird banter for a melody. I love the stillness of the morning when most of the world around me is still asleep. It’s my time to think and just breathe. I love being disconnected from all the stresses and pulls of the day that come as soon as my run finishes.
Reason #2: It Gives Me Great Ideas
I sincerely get my best ideas for teaching, writing, research, you name it… while I’m running.When I run, I have time to generate and think about ideas for my classroom and transform them into an activity, a lesson, or a better way to teach a concept.
While running, I’ve formulated the structure for everything from probability and dragons to becoming a muckraker to how to help students write research papers better.
Reason #3: It Gets Students Moving (This Reason is a Direct Result of Reason #2)
I realized early that learning happens when we’re active. And before you imagine my students running around the block practicing linear equations in their heads, let me assure you the movement comes within the classroom walls.
In 2014, Alex Wiggins wrote a post about the two days she spent shadowing a 10th and 12th grader. Among her key takeaways: “Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting.” She reported: “By the end of the day, I could not stop yawning and I was desperate to move or stretch. I couldn’t believe how alert my host student was, because it took a lot of conscious effort for me not to get up and start doing jumping jacks in the middle of science class just to keep my mind and body from slipping into oblivion after so many hours of sitting passively.”
Additionally, research shows that walking improves creative thinking. So, knowing all this, I make a concentrated effort to get my students up and moving in every class. On days when we’re doing a simulation or working at centers, it’s easy to keep students moving. Other days require a lot of information gathering or skill practice. On information-dense days, I might put the information that I need students to gather around the room and send students on a scavenger hunt to answer questions. Other times when we are gathering facts or doing an investigative project, I have informational text and materials scattered in different spaces so that students literally have to get up and move in order to complete the project. Students might build paper chains to solve problems and need to find the links around the room. For presentations (which can be really long), I like to use the science fair format. Half of the students present while the other half of students go around to visit presentations. Then, we switch.
All this movement pays off in creative students and less yawning.
And while I can’t have my students run out their ideas, it is that daily run of mine that helps me become a more creative, supportive, and sane teacher for them. So even as the mornings get colder and darker, I will be out there running, knowing that a good run benefits not just me but my class, too.
DocRunning is a secondary teacher in California. She holds a Master’s in Education and a PhD in Education Policy. In addition to teaching in a gifted program, she also owns her own education policy research firm and is working on her first book. Her classroom and research experience have shaped the student-centered philosophy she takes in developing curriculum. She blogs at Everything Education about teaching as well as what’s going on in the education world. And of course, she runs daily.