Thoughts, links & ideas from the 2008 National Teacher of the Year

Each time I've taken off in a plane since May (which is a lot), I've been writing in my journal, then adding these journal entries on this blog.

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(Note: the blue posted dates are actually the dates I wrote the journal entries, not when I posted them online.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Improv in the Zone

Redmond, OR

Oh, I hurt.

Went skiing on Tuesday with Jen, my brother (David), and another friend (Troy).  This was my third ski day this year, which is two or three times more than I usually get in a year!  I’ve managed to space them out perfectly, though, so my muscles re-atrophy between each outing, ensuring a few days of good pain to remind me of the fun I had.

There was a time (long ago) when I was actually in great shape for skiing, when David and I would ski nearly every weekend.  A time when the steep and deep were common, when we would throw ourselves off cornices and cliff bands over and over, and float through the trees with coolness and grace.

We relived those days together this week (except for the large cliff bands… we’re getting too old for those.)  But it felt so good to launch ourselves into the trees and ski with confidence and speed, not knowing what was ahead, but knowing that whatever came our way, we could handle it.  Usually.  (See video.)

I think that whenever one becomes truly skilled at something, there is a creative confidence that allows for improvisation, play, and true joy.  I experience it occasionally while playing music, frequently while teaching, and every once in a while during other activities like photography, mountain biking and climbing.  It’s when your just “in the zone,” and your skills and creativity work together perfectly to allow for play that is beautiful and inspiring.  [Ken Robinson describes this in his new book, "The Element."  Here he is talking about it.]

Although it may take a little while to return to this level for me in the classroom, I’ve been experiencing the joy of tree skiing during many of my presentations.  I just sort of get in the zone, and launch into unknown territory, knowing that my knowledge and creativity will make something beautiful out of it.  Or at least keep me from crashing too hard. 

I miss this experience in the classroom, because it used to happen every day.  Not every minute, but at least every day.  And I got in good shape because of it.  I could ski hard, launch into unknown territory, and create something inspiring for my students.  Every once in a while, we’d just ski the groomers, but once one gets a taste for tree-skiing (and gets in shape!) it’s tough to stay away.

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