This past weekend I turned 46. It didn’t result in the purchase of a new corvette or anything, but I think the lead up to my birthday had some of the hallmarks of a mid-life crisis. Forty-six certainly isn’t any kind of milestone, but to make a long story short, I wanted a personal challenge and ended up in a race called the Tough Mudder. I liked the concept behind this race from the beginning because of the Tough Mudder motto:
- I understand that the Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
- I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time.
- I do not whine…kids whine.
- I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.
- I overcome all fears.
And it supports the Wounded Warrior Project. The course is twelve miles long with 24 wet and muddy, military style obstacles designed by British Special Forces along the way that includes 10,000 volts of electricity coursing through your body at some point. Challenging in any environment, but our day turned out to be cold and windy. The first 10 miles were a lot of fun, but this thing got kind of mean in the end and I wound up asking myself, “Why am I doing this?”
The answer of course, is that it puts life into context. Without some real challenges in life, both physical and mental, you have no point of reference for knowing what you’re truly capable of. Take my fellow Tough Mudder in this picture. In the span of a few short moments, I went from being really proud of myself to being truly humbled when we crossed paths at the finish line. Talk about gaining some perspective.
I learned a few things about myself over the weekend (and maybe a little something about hypothermia). Things I hope to carry forward at work. There’s no shortage of challenges that we face as educators today. And while they may seem insurmountable, I don’t think they are. A new accountability system is being developed that sure makes our work feel like a race. Even the federal grants for schools are called “A Race to the Top”.
But it’s not a race. It’s a challenge. A really big one. If we are going to provide the kind of education that our students deserve, we need…I need, to start putting teamwork ahead of our “course time”. We need to quit whining (I’ve done my fair share). And we need to help our students and fellow educators complete the course, no matter how tough or how many obstacles we face. There’s a lot of uncertainty, and no shortage of fears out there, regarding the future of education, especially for educators. But what we can do together, far exceeds what I can do alone. I guess I’ve always known that. Sometimes it just takes a Tough Mudder to remind you.