I’ve always been into sports and keeping physically fit so when my knee started to give out because of running, I was rather disappointed. Running was my way of getting in some exercise while relieving stress at the same time. It was what I normally did on a Saturday morning. As I was trying to figure out what sort of sport I could take up instead of running, my husband stepped in and suggested I try cycling with him. He’s been a cyclist for years and often goes on long, mountainous routes by himself. Knowing what type of routes he usually did, the offer was a bit daunting but I decided to at least give it a whirl. I am so happy that I did. Cycling is hard, physically and psychologically. It’s challenging on many different levels but the satisfaction it brings makes it well worth the effort. I’ve been a cyclist for less than a year (around ten months) but it’s already taught me some pretty important lessons about myself and life in general. I also began noticing some similarities between cycling and teaching. I’d like to share them here.
Know where you’re going
In cycling, just as in teaching, you have to plan and prepare for the route you’re going to take. You’ll need to know approximately how long it will take you to reach your goal as well as the different types of terrain you’ll meet along the way. Cyclists use maps and apps to plan their routes; teachers use curriculum and syllabi to guide them.
Progress may not always be visible
It can be disheartening when you’re putting so much time and effort into something but not seeing the results you’d like to. There will be days when you can see progress and other days when you can’t. The idea is to keep your motivation levels high and stay on track. The days when you notice that your legs are responding well, helping you climb that mountain and the days when your students truly begin using the target language correctly, more than make up for those days of frustrating bewilderment.
It’s challenging– or should be
Cycling and teaching should be stimulating and demanding. If you’re getting bored, then something needs to be done. You may need to up your game with more uphill climbs or longer distances. In teaching this can translate to attempting activities or techniques that are more challenging for you and your students. However you decide to do it, the important thing is not to fall into a comfortable rut.
Expect the unexpected
Cyclists as well as teachers need to be flexible and ready to deal with unforeseen events or even setbacks. A cyclist should always have what’s needed to repair a flat, stave off temporary hunger, hydrate themselves and protect themselves from the elements. You never know when you’ll run over a nail or when the weather will suddenly change. Teachers ought to have their own ‘toolkits’ ready for emergencies: fast finisher activities, reinforcement activities for students who need a little extra support, lesson plans for a reduced number of students on those days when only one or two show up and even band-aids (plasters) for the little ones who need some attending to. All of this requires thought, preparation and, quite frankly, experience.
Be ready to go the distance
In long-distance cycling and teaching, this is a marathon not a sprint. Trying to accomplish too much in too little time can leave you (and your students) overwhelmed. When climbing a steep ramp, control your pace. You want to advance but at the same time be able to maintain your rhythm. The same is true in teaching. If you throw too many items at them at once or try to ‘get through’ too many activities in one lesson, you’ll only leave them confused. Find a pace that you can manage but at the same time will help you reach your goal. And yes, it’s easier said than done.
Taking up cycling was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s challenging and sometimes frustrating but is gratifying at the same time. Teaching shares these qualities and is also something I truly love to do. I’ve really enjoyed being able to combine and compare the two here. Please share your experiences with cycling and/or teaching. Comments and feedback are always appreciated.