Training Log Entry
Team: Odyssey Cycling
Location: San Mateo, California
Mile Marker 53. It always seems to happen right around this identical spot for me, year after year. The longitude and latitude of the mile marker’s GPS position is approximately halfway around the Solvang 100-mile cycling course. It makes perfect sense that, time and time again, at this specific juncture, my mind whispers copious quantities of discouraging messages to my aching body in an attempt to utterly derail my effort. These intricate and mysterious internal communiqués between my mind, body, and soul soon increase in amplitude and frequency. My clever brain suggests that I should just slow down, enjoy the scenery, and abandon the race. After all, the pain is simply not worth it. What am I trying to prove, anyway? The official nomenclature for one who drops out of an athletic competition is DNF as in Did Not Finish. A 100-mile time trial is particularly grueling. For some strange reason, when competitors drop out, they often do so around Mile Marker 53. Topographic maps reveal that the road there is flat and smooth with no appreciable obstacles to surmount. Why would a rider’s motivation wane at that precise location as opposed to more physically demanding loci on the circuit? Most likely, it is because it is halfway around the course. At the start of the ride, spectators line the streets and cheer enthusiastically and the symphony of deafening support becomes a powerful motivational elixir for all participants. Adrenaline levels are peaking and optimism and exhilaration prevail in the hearts and minds of the racers. Consequently, no one throws in the towel at the start.
Likewise, riders don’t give up towards the end of the race either. If one can survive to Mile Marker 70, the route presents a sweeping right turn and suddenly racers are pointing in the direction of the finish line with a brisk tailwind at their backs. These 2 subtle changes serve to bolster spirits and the physics force of heightened anticipation serves to seduce riders into continuing the relentless pace. At Mile Marker 85, riders can sense that the end is near and spectators begin to reappear along the course – all shouting positive and encouraging salutations. As riders climb the steep hill affectionately known as the wall, they are equally immersed in the agony of subterranean pain but, nonetheless, they push onward. The cyclists are simply too close to the finish line to quit. No one gives up just 15 miles out! During the final leg, the phenomenon of mind over body aggressively kicks in and riders surge towards home with renewed vigor and intensity. At the finish line, the time check reveals my effort of 4 hours and 20 minutes – about 23 MPH – not bad for a not-so-young man. The crisp feeling of renewed accomplishment tends to not evaporate for many months and, sometimes, it does not dissipate for years. Meeting challenge, head-on, with courage and determination offers manifold lessons in life. One of these is the reoccurring theme that the midpoint in any rigorous event might require a rehabilitated commitment to save the hero and heroine from falling into the taxonomic phylum of DNF – a purgatory for all of life’s marathons. I guess that there are no “workarounds” in the software architecture of continued life-long learning, success, and achievement.
I mention all of this because the design of a school calendar, in the great sense, is similar to the blueprint of the Solvang 100-mile course. This annual map presents a somewhat chaotic sequence of mile markers imbedded in a rich topography of hills, flats, and false summits with the true finish line for school appearing in June. At Odyssey, we are entering our second semester and this is usually the most challenging time for kids and their parents. The excitement and freshness of the start of the school year has faded into history and the finish line seems to be leagues of miles ahead. Last week, we passed Mile Marker 53, the point where our spirits might attenuate – make no mistake about it! The hills of homework, recital preparation, and intersession projects have sapped our collective endurance and abridged our wills to continue. It is time for us all to reach within to ensure victory!
The Center for Evaluation and Educational Policy at Indiana University has conducted a very large study on the enigmatic subject of student engagement in both middle schools and high schools. Since 2004, over 450,000 students from 500 schools in 40 states have been measured with regard to their engagement levels. The results of the study lucidly indicate that American adolescents are seriously bored in their educational institutions. In fact, only 2% of surveyed students claim that they are “never bored in school” while 50% confess that they are “bored every day” and 18% indicate that they are “bored in every class.”
Student engagement has a specific “eduspeak” definition that should be considered multi-dimensional. Engagement of the mind includes cognitive, intellectual, and academic engagement in school. This measurement quantifies each student’s effort, commitment, and strategy for learning as well as his/her level of engagement connected to instructional time. Engagement in the life of school includes social, behavioral, and participatory engagement. This metric measures each student’s actions in social, extracurricular, and non-academic school. Finally, engagement of the heart includes emotional engagement and gauges how students feel about their current school, including the people with whom they interact as well as the structures of the school.
One titanic way to increase the three aforementioned isomers of student engagement would be to design an annual calendar that is rich with numerous heterogeneous educational exposures. Wellness Week, Taming of the Shrew, advisory lunches, academic classes, Recital, Intersession, Retreat Day, and other calendar variations are designed to keep Odyssey students engaged in and around Mile Marker 53 – that very spot on the school calendar that is halfway through each student’s annual educational journey. While it is quite possible that students and their fatigued parents might be exhausted near Mile Marker 53, it would be hard to imagine students being bored at Odyssey with its deep inventory of assorted educational challenges. This is exceptional because longitudinally designed educational research indicates that engaged students perform better academically and achieve greater summits throughout life. This is the promise and power of Odyssey School – the delivery of positive, life-long impacts to students decades after graduation day.
Looking beyond our February Break, I notice that Odyssey School will be launching The Mount Whitney Expedition for our younger students and The Japan Expedition for our oldest students. These 2 major expeditionary learning opportunities have the capacity to be difference makers in our students’ lives and might offer a capstone experience to all. Teachers, parents, and students just have to make it to Mile Marker 70 where the marathon route turns toward the welcoming cheers and colorful flags of the finish line. The marker is out there in the haze of distance, I can discern it. It is time to engage the 53-front/11-rear sprocket combination to lift the pace homeward. Please join me in this noble quest.
“In bicycle racing the finish line is sometimes merely the symbol for victory. All sorts of personal triumphs take place before that point, and the outcome of the race may actually be decided long before the end.” Laurence Malone
Head of School
My dedication (below) is for all teachers and parents who do the hard work of caring for children. Watch on a full computer screen and crank the soundtrack through a pair of headphones. I wish to convey my thanks to Tom Baldwin, technologist extraordinaire and keeper of the fire.