Pull-ups

It might seem like it has nothing to do with teaching, but pull-ups are making me a better teacher.  My high school art teacher always made comparisons between sports and art. She would talk about how artists and athletes have to practice.  Making art was never easy for me, but I dedicated a ton of effort to it without really noticing how hard I was trying.

It wasn’t until recently when I decided to finally tackle a basic strength and conditioning routine of doing pull-ups and chin-ups, that I actually realized what the connection between art, sports and practice is all about. It was her recipe for How to Succeed.  First of all, in January of this year I could not do even one single chin-up let alone the more challenging (in my opinion) pull-up. I told my coach I really just wanted to set some new goals for myself and finally get over the fact that I just can’t do any pull-ups.  I thought he was going to tell me how to get stronger so I could do them, but instead he said something that didn’t even make sense, but I trust his professional opinion so I did what he said.

He told me to just do them until I can do them.  Are you serious?  How do I do, what I can’t do?  What kind of plan is that?  How am I supposed to do them if I can’t?  Then he showed me that I actually could do a chin-up with only a tiny little push. It was not a big deal by any fitness standard, but I was literally blown away by the fact that he said show me what you can do and then barely even helped me, and I did it.  That was what I needed.

I don’t know if he realized it, but I was really doubting myself. It was a tiny force in the way forward that made a huge impact. It was only one chin-up, but that one was huge to me.  After that, I did one every day until one became two, then three, and then four.  Then ten in a row. Then three sets of ten. Then push-ups between sets. Then pull-ups, chin-ups and push-ups in multiple sets.  It was really not about the fact that I was getting stronger which was my goal for being able to do them in the first place. The most amazing thing was that I could actually do something that I never thought I could do, and I got there by doing what I couldn’t do until I could actually do it.

The logic sounds twisted, but it works. It is The Best Feeling. One that I hope I can recreate with more practice for my students.  Thank you coach! You have no idea what a big deal this was for me. I hear it all the time, that others think art comes easy to me.  I know it doesn’t, but I also know that I worked at it my whole life just because I wanted to.  The trick with being a teacher is how to help students realize that if they want to do something there are ways to get there but they aren’t easy.  It was much harder than I thought it was going to be, to be able to do what I once believed I couldn’t.  It started with a decision to try. I didn’t back down when I was told to do it until I learned how. That is the kind of teacher I want to be.  One who can say, you might not be able to do this yet, but if you keep doing it eventually you’ll be able to. One who can give her students just the right amount of push so they will keep going until they get where they want to be.  I will keep practicing until I can do that. Then I will start over.

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