Stephen R. Covey lists “Sharpen the Saw,” through care of mind, body, and soul, as the habit through which we renew ourselves. So, on the last day of school in May, I bought a sport hybrid bicycle and named her Midnight. (Sport hybrids combine features of both road and off-road bikes.)
Throughout the summer Midnight and I explored Tucson’s “Loop,” a paved pedestrian and bike path that follows our riverbeds throughout our city. Since school started, I’ve been riding the Loop to school once or twice a week. One-way covers 16 miles and takes just over 60 minutes. So two round trips in a week amount to 64 miles and four hours of exercise. But since driving to work on those two days would take two hours anyway, biking amounts to getting four hours of exercise in half the clock time.
Lots of health gains there, plus Midnight and I have discovered that some rides yield a “biker’s high.” And nothing says “renew” like flooding the body with endorphins.
Moving into September, Midnight and I decided we needed to take the measure our trail-riding skills. It didn’t take long to learn some lessons that transfer directly to teaching, as well as the whole of life:
- Minutes (seconds?) into our first trail we realized they need a classification below Beginner. Lesson: Nothing is as easy as it looks.
- The path was much rockier than I expected. Then I remembered, duh, mountains are made of rocks. Lesson: When in doubt, return to the basics.
- It’s not hard to steer your front tire around a rock; the trick is getting the rear tire to miss it, too. Lesson: Watch your back.
- Putting your feet down prevents crashing. Lesson: There’s no shame in seeking support.
- No gear is too low. Lesson: As long as you’re moving forward, you’re getting there. Just keep pedaling.
- If you don’t see a path or tire tracks ahead of you, you’re lost (or blazing your own trail, to put it kindly). Lesson: Follow a path and you learn from others’ experience; blaze a trail and you learn from your own.
- Bad things can happen in the last 100 meters of a ride. Lesson: Take nothing for granted.
- A poor rider blames the bike. Lesson: Blame yourself or blame nobody.
- The ride’s not over until you’ve cleaned and lubed your chain. Lesson: Take care of your colleagues and they’ll take care of you.
Now, my district is pretty generous when it comes to compensating teachers for off-contract professional development, but I doubt they’d pay for my hours riding on the Honeybee Canyon Loop, no matter how much it improves my teaching. But who says best compensation comes with a dollar sign?
After all, my ninth governing principle as a teacher leader does say to, “Be human first by caring for my family, faith, and health before all else.” Midnight makes that happen on the trail or on the road whenever the light is right, the view is clear, and my playlist lands on the perfect song (like the piano finale to Eric Clapton’s Layla). In those moments no questions about what Heaven is like remain, and I thank God for being alive.