Tuesday, January 5, 2021

#OneWord2021: Commit

The air was crisp, deceiving considering the bright sunshine and the wide blue skies.  A slight but steady breeze cut into me, forcing me to zip up my sweatshirt and pull the hood up over my ears.  The only sound was the crunch of rocks beneath my feet. I strained to hear other sounds, hoping for something out of the ordinary, after all, this was a ghost town.  Even though I couldn't hear anything, another strange sensation overcame me; it was almost as if I could feel the presence of those that were here before me, over a hundred years prior.  

Devil's Golf Course, Death Valley National Park
I had been to Rhyolite before, but this was the first time that I truly had the opportunity to explore the ruins of the former gold mining town.  Located about 120 miles from Las Vegas, Rhyolite was a boomtown in the early 1900s after gold was discovered but quickly depleted.  A town that is estimated to have been as large as 8,000 people disappeared by 1920.  A quiet New Year's Day walk around what was left of Rhyolite was a great way to kick off 2021, followed shortly by a drive to Death Valley and a handful of short hikes along Artist's Drive, Devil's Golf Course, and the salt flats of Badwater Basin.  The day was a great way to continue my daily exercise routine, marking 43 days in a row of getting outside, mainly walking 3-5 miles a day.  

After the turmoil of 2020 and everything that came with it, it would be very easy to go through the motions or even give up on things.  And in all honesty, I did that with many aspects of my life, personally and professionally.  As remote teaching and learning, or more appropriately, emergency teaching and learning, progressed in the spring, it became harder and harder each day to commit myself 100% to my craft.  After a strong start to getting outside and walking or riding my bike in the spring, I made more excuses that I made commitments to stick to the routine, especially after my move and the heat of the Mojave Desert intensified in the summer months.  Rather than writing and reflecting on a regular basis, I got away from this blog for weeks at a time, did not interact as much on social media, and spent less time participating in professional development (I even spent money on a virtual conference that I DID NOT attend because I simply "did not feel like it").  

As the calendar approached the new year, I began to think about goals for 2021 and a return to One Word.  For reasons that I cannot quite pinpoint or remember, I did not choose a word for 2020 and did not write a blog looking ahead to 2020.  The closest I came to any sort of looking ahead was refusing to predict the future in my end of the year reflection piece from late 2019, The Closing of a Decade: 2010-2019. I am not so pompous to suggest that 2020 turned into the proverbial dumpster fire because I did not choose a word, but if you want to blame somebody, I'll fall on the sword for you.  

Circling back to the start of the new year at Rhyolite and Death Valley, I mentioned that January 1st marked 43 days in a row of exercise and getting outside.  It marked substantial commitment on my part, one that has continued through this writing.  Even when I was younger and playing sports, including four years of football in college, I don't think I had ever exercised that many days in a row.  Rest days were rest days where I did not do anything.  That said, for 2021, I have selected COMMIT as my One Word.  Basically, I want to own the things I say and the commitments that I make and follow through each and every time.  But it's more than just a continuation of my exercise streak:

  1. Take my streak one day at a time.  I am not committing to 365 straight days of exercise, but each morning, I can commit to working out that day.  Even if it is just a short walk, a short walk is better than not getting off of the couch at all!  I know that at one point, the streak will end, but as long as I am physically able to continue my streak, I will do it!
  2. I have struggled with my weight for a long time.  I have always been big, but at least in high school and college, I was more fit and toned.  My wake-up call came on Sunday, January 3 when I stepped on the scale for the first time in probably eight months.  For the first time in my life, I weighed in at over 300 pounds.  No matter my muscle mass and excuses that I have made in that regard, that kind of weight is not healthy for a person with a family history like mine.  And while I have a goal weight in mind, like my exercise commitment, I am committing myself to one day at a time of eating better, making better choices, and holding myself accountable to make a permanent change to my weight and my health.  
  3. 2020 has brought to light issues that have always been there and have needed to be addressed for hundreds of years: equality for all and educational equity.  I will be the first to admit as a white male that I have a lot to learn and more that I can do to become an antiracist educator and advocate for educational equity.  I am committing myself to learn more, not shy away from tough conversations, and be more of an ally for all that are unfairly disadvantaged.  
  4. In 2020, I applied for the Google Innovator Academy and unfortunately, was rejected.  While I believe that my initial application included a solid idea, I know that there are thousands of people that also have solid ideas, and competition for that coveted Innovator certification is fierce.  I am committing myself to evaluate my ideas, polish the application, and hopefully, earn the opportunity to participate in the Innovator Academy in 2021.  
  5. Lastly, the first half of the 2020-2021 school year was a tough one, completely online.  And while we are starting the new semester virtually once again, regardless of how the remainder of the school year and beyond plays out, I commit to being the best educator that I can be for each one of my students, their families, and my colleagues.  
What is your One Word for 2021?  What goals do you have for this year?  How do you intend to meet your goals?  What do you perceive as possible barriers to achieving your goals?  Think about it...

Until next time... 

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