Reflections on a holiday

20 10 2008

Well my time was rubbish for the marathon but I knew that was going to happen; a lack of proper training, the travelling and jet leg and what ended up as 30 degree heat on the day were factors that were always going to give me trouble.

I did manage to mostly enjoy it though as I kept telling myself too!  I had a few low points,  but the volunteers and the spectators really kept me going.

It sounds corny but doing that marathon reminded me that most people are nice (I can’t think of a better word, too tired with jet lag).  It’s too easy to concentrate on anti-social behaviour, ASBO’s etc, especially when you have noisy neighbours, but there were 1-2m people spectating on Sunday, a lot of whom cannot have been supporting specific people but just generally there to give support to the 36,000 people who started the race (46,000 registered and 31,000 finished).  Then there were the people setting up showers with their hoses as the weather got hotter, giving out extra cups of water, ice and lots of sweets!

It was the volunteers who I really paid attention to this time though. Usually I carry my own water and have only just started drinking sports drinks so have never used the aid stations as much as I did last week.  There were 20 aid stations, about a city block in length with first aid, toilets, drop out truck and gaterade and water taking up most of the block on both sides of the road.  Half of the aid stations were manned by running clubs and half by high schools.  My guess would be that of the total number of volunteeers on aid stations 80% ish were teenagers.  Not only were they super at what they were doing but they were also very vocal in their support as well, particularly in the latter stages.  I am not sure this number of teenagers would volunteer, although it would be nice to think so.  Certainly I do not remember noticing this at either of the two London marathons I have done.

2 favourite slogans on banners from supporters:

“Pain is just weakness leaving the body”

“The reason your feet hurt so much is because you are kicking so much ass” (very american but funny!)

I love big cities like Vancouver, New York and now Chicago, partly because of the range of different cultures that they are made up of.  I was always turning round to admire beautiful children in the street of African/American or Asian descent.  However it was glaringly obvious that by far the majority of manual labour, low paid jobs that I saw were being done by mostly black people.  In comparison going shopping down the magnificent mile, going to museums with entry fees or to the theatre you were surrounded by mostly white people.  Then on my last day I saw a queue for a soup kitchen and 95% of the people in the queue were black and male.  When I saw that it brought it home how recently really that segregation was in force in the USA.

On a totally different note now, I had my first day of presentations on Malawi to secondary school pupils today at Strathaven Academy.  I was a bit worried about this as I had not really been in a secondary since my own time there so was expecting, pessimistically, bad behaviour and poor listening.  However I was pleasantly surprised at the behviour and attention that was paid to me in each of the six talks I did to 1st to 4th year.  They were a bit sleepy first thing in the morning and there were not many questions but the different classes livened up as the day went on.  I found the secondary pupils a bit harder to read than primary pupils during the talks but was convinced of their interest when it was often the pupils who started spontaneous applause when I finished.  The only un-related question I was asked was the very last one with one of the girls in third year asking me if my nails were real or not – I think they had a bet on!

Shopping went better than the marathon!

16 04 2008

Just got back from London last night and am still trying to get over the marathon (thats psychologically rather than sore legswise).  I was bitterly disappointed to only run 4.32.17 when I had been going for sub 4.10 but you will have to read my running blog to learnn more (be warned – it’s a lengthly post!).  In it I probably beat myself up about it quite a bit, I would say I have stopped doing that to myself so severely about teaching but definately not in terms of running.

I did take some work with me and despite meeting two fellow runners on the train on the way down on Friday I started to fly through writing my presentation for the HT conference.  It was really flowing and I am sure that it is because like the presentations I have done on Malawi I know what I am talking about and it was easy to put in the structure.  Unfortunately waves of sickness suddenly came on and I was forced to stop for a couple of hours.  Instead of going back to it later I spent the time doing some reading of AIFL stuff, which I found really interesting and took a lot of notes on, and reading gossipy mags that Debs brought on the train.  By the time we finally ate dinner at 9pm that night after being on the bus, train and underground all day I had motion sickness and the whole restaurant was moving!

I made up for the lack of a good time in the marathon by visits to the amazing Imperial War Museum (It would be amazing to be able to take your class there during a WW2 topic) and the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum.  Then there was the shopping where I did walk a lot of miles (on Monday and Tuesday) which actually helped my legs with their recovery, don’t get me wrong though they are still not right and won’t be for a while and I was a fine sight going down stairs sideways (believe me if I could have gone down backwards I would have but I thought was going to look just a bit too odd!).

Some things I picked up or was reminded of from my reading (‘Asking Better Questions’ by Ian Smith) were:

  • Ask the pupils to identify ‘fat and thin’ questions
  • Don’t give the question – give the answer and ask why it’s correct ie Why can 7/9 not be simplified?
  • Turn the question into a true or false statement and ask why its true or false
  • Ask big questions ie philisophical
  • Ask for 5 ideas – it stretches those that need it
  • If someone says they do not know ask “What would you say if you did know?”
  • Get an answer and gather others, then go back to the first pupil and ask ‘which answer do you like best?”

I have not quite finished it, the last section is the most interesting.  It is titled ‘How to devise Challenging Activities’ and has some good ideas in it.  I will post them when I have finished it.