|Tent City Panoramic - TCC|
About six weeks ago my Year in the Mud concluded in reaching the goal of participating in the World’s Toughest Mudder. That is what we set out to do. Mission accomplished!!
Since the race, I’ve done a lot of reflecting, partly still in the stupor that many participants already described – a bit of groggy, fog set in as the energy from the event subsided coupled with the feelings of success in accomplishing our goal. My race was probably similar to many – great friends, mudda bruddas as we have become, and a support crew (of one) who was indomitable in making sure she did everything possible to document our race and, more importantly, just help. She also takes a cute selfie! Oh yeah – I turned 40 on race day. I forgot to bring the balloons, but given the photo coverage that MarathonFoto provided, I doubt if 40th Birthday balloons would have guaranteed me a picture on Facebook. Terrible job MarathonFoto. All in all WTM turned out to be an incredible race, and we are already preparing for what we can do better next year.
For those of you who are more frequent readers, you will know that the focus of the blog has always been to try and infuse as many posts as possible with reflections on the educational and leadership lessons learned along our way. My theme – yes I do have enough posts to develop a theme – has focused most often on the idea of what it takes to train for a "Mudder" - with the definition of said Mudder always reserved for the individual sweating to make it happen.
I always find it reassuring how life allows us so many opportunities to reflect on our experiences - and as time passes to look at them through different lenses. For me it was a group of my own students who helped me conceptualize what it was that I learned throughout my Year in the Mud.
Recently I taught an adjunct course this past Fall, and, overall, think I did a fairly good job of practicing what I preached each week. Practicing what you preach is a skill not to be overstated. It's hard! So to provide a grading system focused on content mastery and allowing students to revise and resubmit work to show their learning meant I spent a lot of time reading student work.
When I began this post, I had only had 3 students ask to meet with me and discuss their first assignment. Yes there were more than 4 students in the class. And yes I would have expected many more students to take advantage of the opportunity to revise and resubmit. Grades for a graduate class were not good - far too many Cs.
One idea that really struck me arose during one of these conversations, and in the end, provided the the impetus for this post. The general idea - next semester's students would benefit from an initial writing assignment to understand exactly how they would be graded and the level of work that they would need to put in. Yes – the request is to try an understand the level of grading I would use in order to determine ultimately how much effort they would need to put into an assignment.
The irony, which I probably still enjoy the most, is that I had effectively done just this. They had an initial assignment, just happened to be the mid-term, and, of course, it was graded. I expect her true desire was more to have the assignment ungraded but with a great deal of grading effort on the professor's part. Plus everyone was provided a detailed rubric explaining how the essays would be graded. My initial, and only question was,
“Do you think this is a reflection of your best work?”
“Oh by no means…I’m not disagreeing with on that at all. But I just turned in this same level of work in a math course and got a 96...” (quotes for stylist blogging effect only)
No argument with the grade. No argument that her work did not meet expectations. She just didn’t know how much effort to exert.
And the only reply that came to my lips, “Always, always do your best. Always!” And this time you can quote me.
“I completely agree.”
In looking back on everything it was a great lesson on assessment. Here we have a student, working to learn the ins and outs of developing a equitable grading strategy that she will use one day in her own classroom, telling me, in all honesty, that this work was not her best effort, agreed the grading was fair, and, ultimately, in the end, thanking me for letting her have another opportunity to demonstrate mastery.
Doing your best – such a novel concept. Over the past six weeks I have often asked myself if I felt I did my best during the WTM. I'm not really sure why the question continues to come up. And as I prepare for WTM 2014, that question has definitely faded. Maybe it’s knowing that I didn’t arrive 100%. Our race schedule leading up to WTM 13 was tough and probably a bit silly given WTM was the goal. Three laps at Tri-State and then a Saturday double at Mid-Atlantic took their toll on the leg and shoulder. Even today the leg and shoulder aren’t 100%. Maybe now that I’m 40 they never will
And the idea that the 22 year old side of me keeps thinking - if I would have found obstacle racing ten years ago, things would have been different. But I found it closer to 40, and while my mind might still pay some ear to that 22 year old, I may have to redefine mentally what it means to do my best.
What does it mean to give your best? At this point, I can tell you it sure can look like a moving bar - tied up with expectations and a 22 year old hammering away at you about memories past. Might make another whole post to think through the whole idea of how ultimately defining your best can go a long way in helping you decide on what that next great Mudder is for you.
This I do know. WTM 14 is a long way away. And I know that I still have things to prove. This is the exciting part. It is actually being at the place you always wanted to be – concluding our year in the mud and thinking about what's next.
And I’ve come full circle, back to my first real question on this blog, what Mudder are you training for. I can only speak for myself, but I find it to be such a different question now than when we began this endeavor so long ago at Wintergreen.
|Danny, Brian, and Pat - Our Year in the Mud|