Power of Community
I am once again staring out at miserable rain and snow. It is March. Spring is just around the corner. Outside my window there are big fat flakes hitting the sidewalk. I start yelling at my husband, "No! I don't want thissss!" Yelling it out loud makes me feel better.
I am in my running gear ready to head out. Today's training schedule announces hill training. The last thing I want to do is go out in the cold, dark, big fat snowflake outside night. It was a long day at work and what I really feel like doing is putting on my baggy flannel pyjamas and curling on the couch.
But I can't do that. I have other people counting on me. They are expecting me to be there and so I complain a bit and yell a bit more at my husband but I head out the door. "This is crazy, this is stupid," I keep say, but still I go. I grab my headlight and flash light, gear up my water pack and arrive at the Running Room.
I find my running buddy and we are both shaking our heads in unison. What are we thinking? The usual crowd of runners who arrive for the Wednesday training runs do not show up. There is less than a third of the regulars in the room.
But still we head out, we alter the route a bit and we meander up to the training spot, we do our hills and we head back to the store. We end our run with high fives and encouragement, and I notice that all of us have grins on our faces that were not present at the start of the run.
There have been a few more of those difficult runs this year as a result of our unusual winter weather pattern. On my own, I would have never stepped out the door, but because others were relying on my small piece of energy to encourage them, I knew that staying home was not an option. On my own, I would not have gathered the stories of challenge and triumph that now inform all parts of my life.
At the end of every one of those runs, I always feel better. It is not just the endorphins from the running that are kicking in. It is the practice of entering a task that feels impossible or mighty difficult and coming out on the other end, alive and excited. Every difficult run I finish gives my body an amazing story of success.
I am not just training my lungs and muscles, I am training my courage, my perseverance and my self confidence. Every time I finish a difficult run, I successfully squash the chatter in my head that tries to keep me "safe." I learn that I can do difficult things. This confidence does not end on the hill training. It transfers into all areas of my life.
Successful learning communities do the same thing. They challenge everyone in the room to move past their comfort zones. They expand the vision of what is possible. I teach in 38 different classrooms over the course of the year. Classrooms that support risks, curiosity and safety are palpable entities. So are classrooms that discourage the very same attributes. After so many years in classrooms, I can see, feel, smell and hear the energy of 'safe risk taking.' The experience is contagious!
Being accountable to a group is a huge motivator in helping us do difficult things. For me, there is some kind of magic that comes from the shared synergy of trusting communities. One plus one does not equal two. When two are more are gathered, one plus one equals millions. The energy moves exponentially when communities work together to support risks.
How can we as parents, teachers, community members, and administrators encourage our school and living spaces to bring about the synergy of millions? How can we bring this learning into teacher education programs? Teacher Unions? Politics?
I am so grateful I have a gaggle of women (the occasional guy graces my pace group) who provide me with the weekly practice of training my whole being to live more fiercely and courageously.