Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Teaching-Like Racing In The Indie

     Even here at the end of the school year, like most of you I imagine, I am looking toward the next year, thinking about how I can improve my work with teachers and students:  searching for new ideas to improve teaching, to communicate more clearly, and to create closer collegial relationships.  In between all the personal summer activities, I will read and think and make notes and gather resources.  There lately was an article from Education Week titled “Teaching Is Not A Part-Time Job”.  Here is the link:  http://svteach.wikispaces.com/Teachers'+Work+Goes+Beyond+the+School+Day
       I find that I make so many connections to what I observe, on TV sometimes, and in other activities that I do.  Yesterday, I watched most of the Indie 500 race, and early in this most prestigious race, I began to apply what I saw to teaching.  This time, while the ending holds just one winner, the entire broadcast information held much to be applied to education.  First of all, they showed the history of the race, this year 100 years old, with the primitive model-t racers that climbed to 75 mph, to the near-rocket cars of today that reach 220 mph.  In between are innovations, tweaking of new applications, brains working overtime to create the best racing (read ‘learning’) possible for the cars.  And the drivers themselves today learn they must strengthen their hands, to be able to hold onto the shaking steering wheels at such high speeds, must workout even like the Olympians to be able to endure the nearly four hour race.  We too have historical background in education that supports what we do.  Innovators in our history have given us basic knowledge that we use again and again, and much of it hasn’t gone out of style.  We too have to stay in shape, perhaps not like the Olympians, but most of all, we keep up with the best practices that are proven; to read what we must takes stamina, while to use what we learn takes endurance in the classroom, keeping up with different groups, different individuals.
           During the race I noticed that the pit crew was discussed at length, including how much they practiced in order to get ready for the event, how they rehearsed in order to shave even parts of seconds off the time taken to change tires, re-fuel, and make minor adjustments.  Teachers often teach to the moment, also making minor changes as they assess what is happening in the group, or to an individual.  They form the pit crew that keeps the car going, don’t they, working alongside (or with) the driver?  
And who is the driver?  I believe it’s an ebb and flow between the teacher and the students, a companionship that could be akin to teaching the student to drive, directing with details, teaching as much as you know about learning, then the gradual release so that the student is driving alone. Having learned what is offered as well as possible, the student takes over, practicing, getting the needed help from the pit crew, but this time it’s the driver who must make the crucial decisions that help complete the race.  The classroom/students are also the car, also interacting with the driver and given support by the pit crew.  One story that resonated with me was the race by Danica Patrick, who placed 10th in this Indie 500.  During the race, the car ran hot and the pit crew, all the background help, made changes at every pit stop, trying to reduce the heat, to keep the car running as well as could be, with Danica herself making changes in the way she raced, to give the best chance for success.  She didn’t win, but the car did complete the race without breaking down, and the different changes made by the pit crew helped that happen.  Hurrah for teachers who keep tweaking their methods in order to differentiate the learning for each student, and achieve success.
             I guess that many might think this connection is a little silly, yet when I make connections like this; I share them with my teachers and students, because I want more than anything for them to understand the myriad parts that encompass the practice of teaching and the components of learning.  It is hoped that those same teachers and students begin to examine anything they wish to understand more fully, in the minute parts that create success.


  1. I don't think your connection is silly, I think it is inspiring. Posts like this make me look for connections that I usually miss. I will be looking and thinking as I am looking. Keep posting your connections, it will help me make that link.

  2. I am that car! It takes a lot to keep me racing through the year - but many hands and their can-do spirit ensures that I complete my laps. Thanks for making me think about the school year in a whole new way!

  3. I'm totally with you on the connection. It's not silly at all!

    Congrats on getting to the end of the race!


  4. "In between all the personal summer activities, I will read and think and make notes and gather resources."

    I love this about the TWT community. I have the feeling while reading your post (and so many others) like "these are my people." I hunger to interact more with professionals who truly engage in the profession like you do- so much so that you are thinking about it while watching a race! Go you!

  5. Teaching is a full time think-job! I love the connections and find I am doing the same kind of thing all the time - everything is a metaphor for teaching.

  6. I think your connection really works. I also have a tendency to make connections back to teaching - I get laughed at for always seeing things (events, news, shows) with a teaching filter.

  7. This is a great way to connect teaching. I would never have thought of it.

  8. I love the comparison and don't think it silly at all. I do the same thing. For me, I'm always looking for the workshop model.


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