Seeing the Trail Through the Thistles

Last weekend I went on an awesome mountain bike ride with my husband. It was a little intense, though, I’m not going to lie. There Mollyhas been a ton of rain in Denver. It is so green here this summer we joke that we have moved to Seattle. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been awesome – I am not complaining, and I’ll feel even better about it if it’s a big snow year in the mountains.

On the trail we rode all this rain means super high grass and weeds. Weeds in Denver means lots of thistle. Now on this particular trail, it is usually easy to see what the singletrack unfolds ahead of me. But not this summer. The grasses are so high that I have to really pay close attention. If not, I run the risk of riding off the trail onto a cliff, and worse, down the mountain.

This high grass necessitates an almost trance-like looking forward to make sure there are no miscalculations. There must be nothing to distract my attention. There is to be no admiring of wildflowers, or looking over the cliff to see the view as normally might be the case. Instead, there is intense concentration and a laser focus on the task at hand.

Every year at the beginning of the school year, I create a mantra for myself. Last year’s was, “Turn down the volume.” With all of the changes in education that have come down the pike, it had become hard for me to focus on what got me into education in the first place: my students. My mantra came from a place of wanting and needing to preserve my own sanity, my own sense of what got me into the profession in the first place.

Turn down the noise became my reminder to question whether what I got caught up in on a daily basis really mattered to student learning, or if it was just noise, a distraction. It helped me focus myself on my hard days.

This mountain bike ride last week was a great reminder of the power of turning down the noise. All the thistles and tall grasses kept the trail ahead of me hidden. This has happened a lot in education in the last few years. We, in the classroom, have had a lot of grass grow over our trail. We have to concentrate and not get distracted at the real work, lest we miss a turn on the trail and go over the cliff.

So, with the start of the new school year, let’s all turn down the noise. Let’s help one another see over the tall grass, and let’s get up the mountain together.