Friday, January 1, 2016

2015: A year of professional growth and physical diminution

2015 was a year of professional growth and physical diminution (the good kind).

Part One: Professional Growth
About a year ago, I looked over the syllabus for the Master's course I'd be taking that Spring with some apprehension. Until that point, each course I'd taken had directly connected to the day-in, day-out of my teaching; much of my coursework till then had asked me to develop and refine curriculum, lessons, and assessments that I would actually use (and would have needed to work on, anyway).  However, this course was entitled "Teacher Leadership: Field Experience", and browsing the syllabus told me that the course was largely going to be about matters broader than my own curriculum and pedagogy--matters such as school vision and mission; the scope & sequence of the school curriculum; facilitating and participating in professional development.  I'll confess that at the moment, this did not seem all that relevant or interesting to me.  In only one sense was the course what I expected it to be: as I thought, it did not double up with, or complement the prep I was already doing.  I was surprised to find that I didn't care.

It was exactly the course that I needed at that time.  It challenged me to take a step back and look beyond the walls of my classroom in a way that I'd never done before.  It forced me to think about the bigger picture of education at CAJ, something I found I not only enjoyed, but which came naturally to me (in hindsight, I suppose it makes sense, since details are definitely NOT my thing!).

The course culminated in me putting my name in for the role of department chair for English and Social Studies which had just opened up.  It's remarkable: a year ago, I would not have thought myself up to the task, nor would I have been remotely interested in taking on that sort of responsibility.  Now, it's one of my favorite parts of my job!  While it is certainly challenging, and it means more work and more meetings (including leading monthly PLC meetings), I get to facilitate discussions within the department about issues I care about.  I get to participate in discussions about the vision and future of the school with committed, caring colleagues.  I can see how my course fits into a bigger puzzle.  I have learned that the success of my teaching is predicated upon my willingness and desire to keep learning, both on my own, and in the context of community.

I will embark upon the last leg of my Master's course this Spring, conducting my action research project.  I started the program back in 2013, and each step of the journey has left a profound impact on me.  I hope to maintain a reflective, willing-to-learn attitude by continuing to regularly reflect on my practices in the coming months, both for my research project, and also this blog.

Part Two: Physical Diminution
When I was in high school, my metabolism was lightning-fast.  I was not merely slender--I was scrawny; wiry.  I could eat an entire large Little Caesar's pepperoni pizza and a full order of Crazy Bread on my own, and indeed, a few of my friends' parents would order an extra pizza if they knew I was coming over.

When I had a pre-college physical in the Spring of my Senior year, I was roughly 160 pounds (approx. 72 kg).

Then I went away to college and everything changed.  I kept up the eating habits that had promised no consequences only a few months earlier, but the combination of less exercise and leaving my teenage years behind meant that my body just wasn't keeping up with my consumption.  I knew I was putting on weight and became fearful of the scale.  My fear did not translate into action, just avoidance.  I simply preferred not to know how much I weighed, if I could help it.

Although I have had several stretches in which I exercised regularly (several seasons of coaching cross country), I never made any conscious changes to my diet, and so those physically active periods only kept me from gaining more weight--a stop-gap solution at best.  Getting married only added to my poor eating habits: I started finishing food off of my wife's plate when she got full, in addition to my own portion.  Worse yet, having stepped down from coaching cross country, I was getting less exercise than ever.

Particularly in the first half of 2015, I sensed that my weight gain was getting out of control.  I knew that I'd have to face the music when the annual staff physicals rolled around in August.  So, I stepped on the scale on August 13 to find that I weighed 210 pounds (95 kg, roughly).  In just one year, I had gained more than 20 pounds, and I knew I needed to do something.

On August 14, I subscribed to Weight Watchers and downloaded the Weight Watchers app on my phone.

I had built up in my mind a rather warped image of dieting, perhaps influenced by media's portrayals of weight loss, and so was surprised to find that Weight Watchers mainly worked by asking me to record the food and drink that I took in, in a single day (easy to do on my phone!).  Because I was thinking intentionally about my eating habits, I cut out snacking (which I had been doing constantly without even realizing it), and stopped eating my wife's leftover food.

Although the weight disappeared much more quickly in the first month or so, I am still slowly and steadily dropping weight.

As of this week, I am down to 176 pounds (80 kg).  My goal is to get back down to 165 pounds, just a little more than I weighed when I graduated from high school.  I will turn 30 in March, and I'd love to be able to start my 30s in better physical condition than I was in when I started my 20s.

My personal challenge to myself--a resolution of sorts--is to exercise regularly this year.  Keeping an eye on what I eat is only half the battle--I need to be proactive about making physical activity a part of my routine.  Health is something I have more or less taken for granted, and the sluggish feeling I had at my heaviest point this summer was a wake-up call.


Of course, above all else--more than my professional development, and my physical wellness--I need to leave time for spiritual growth, which is something I failed to do consistently this past year.  I need to spend time in the Word and time in prayer, even if simply to listen to God.  The busier I get, the easier it is to forget that it's not by my power or strength that I can succeed in these things, but by God's.

All in all, I am grateful for the wonderful year that 2015 was, and look forward to seeing what 2016 has to bring!

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