teaching at altitude?

03 Sep

i recently returned from a trip to colorado where i spent over a week at altitude – as a runner it was quite a chore to run at 12,000 ft but an amazing thing has happened since my return, i feel like i can run forever.  spending time working out at high altitude, oxygen thin areas has made my workouts at low altitude, oxygen enriched areas seem much easier.  i’m aware the effects will subside quickly but i’m enjoying it for now…but i’m not here to talk about running…necessarily.  oddly enough, both environments i’m talking about are considered harsh by athletes; after all you don’t see people spilling out of the airports to come to houston to train in the heat and oppressive humidity.  my experience in a difficult environment put my usual running in perspective, in fact made it seem easier…have i had professional experiences that fall into that same pattern?  without question.  i’ve been in some tough spots, under tough circumstances, at tough times with some tough content.  having had those experiences made working with a smaller group under different (easier?) circumstances seem much, much more manageable.  let’s go back to the good old days, my 2nd year of teaching i had the class from hades, it was exhausting and i shook my head at the end of each day wondering how i was going to get through to some of those 5th graders.  like many of the proverbial crucibles that we have found ourselves in, i would like to think that i became  a better teacher for having that year long experience.  looking back on it, what i was doing was teaching at altitude, where everything seemed more difficult and when the next class rolled around it seemed to a be a bit too easy.  so what am i doing?  advocating we all put ourselves into situations that will leave us with battle scars?  truth be told, there really is never going to be an easy year of teaching/training, its a tough job that not everyone has the stomach for, but perhaps having the perspective to realize that tough experiences can be beneficial might soothe the nerves a bit when confronted with the group that “will only make you stronger”.


Posted by on September 3, 2009 in Uncategorized


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3 responses to “teaching at altitude?

  1. Janice D.

    September 3, 2009 at 9:38 am

    I did have the same experience working as a CSR (Class Size Reduction Teacher as they call it, slash Reading Specialist) a decade ago. I was given all the struggling readers and surprisingly (?!) most of them had behavioral issues too. It was tough but when the funds ran out, I was placed in a regular self-contained classroom and to my surprise the change/challenge was actually not as bad. I guess, since I was initially thrown in the deep, everything next to that seemed so shallow.

  2. texasbuckeye

    September 3, 2009 at 10:01 am

    @janice i like your analogy to water, deep and shallow for sure!

  3. Jeri

    September 5, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    I’ve had many tough educational experiences and it has framed my perspective in interesting ways. One of the most difficult experiences was time spent as the only Inclusion Specialist for HISD. Only three years out of the classroom, I traveled all over the district providing inclusion training to hostile audiences who hated me before the presentation began.
    People actually turned their backs on me, asked trick questions to trap me, and engaged in a type of shunning that was downright meanspirited and unprofessional. Yet the experience gave me thick skin–there is no training audience or experience that can shake me.

    I also learned to use knowledge in meaningful ways (storytelling) to hook my audience. The hostile crowds were transformed into engaged participants, and often many would remain after training to ask questions and seek advice. My reputation as a trustworthy source and inclusion expert grew on a district and regional level as I became a speaker at universities and conferences. Without the beat-down, I know for a fact that wouldn’t have happened.

    This experience also opened doors as I formed many professional relationships with folks all over the district -many who have been invaluable in supporting me over the years. In fact many of those relationships guided my promotions and made my first year in PD a huge success.

    I can say without regret–it hasn’t been the easy things that have shaped me–but the struggles. Although I wanted to quit, throw in the towel , and become a stay at home mom at the time, I stayed the course. My difficult experiences and the roads I’ve taken, were required to shape the person I have become. And I am truly grateful for the journey.


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