This morning I was out running with my beautiful wife. We’re both dipping our toes into a more natural style of running, and were out working on our form in our new shoes. In choosing to transition to natural running my wife and I took different routes. I started off by buying a more minimalist style of the Sauconyshoes in which I’d been running and which I loved. I did a little bit of research, and the science behind natural running seemed convincing. I told the guy at the store what my plans were and that I wanted a shoe that would help me with the transition. I asked what he thought of the Saucony Kinvara. He told me that if I truly was looking for what I said I was looking for, it is a great shoe. I bought the shoes and started running in them.
My wife also did her research. She did a lot of research. She talked to people who loved natural running and people who told her not even to think about it. She told everyone she talked to that she understood nothing of the science or philosophy behind minimalist running, and she listened to what they said. Then she went to a store in Shepherdstown, WV–about an hour and a half from DC where we live–called Two Rivers Treads. My beautiful and brilliant wife–did I mention that my wife is also brilliant?, She’s also a little obsessive, but that is for another time… Anyway, my all around extraordinary wife spent probably an hour with the guy in the store while I went to have tea with the boys. She asked a lot of questions. Again, she listened. She got great advice and a fantastic pair of New Balance
I was so impressed with Jennifer’s research and reasoning that this morning I broke out the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove running shoes I’d purchased a while back started practicing the forms and techniques I’d seen in the videos Jennifer forwarded. Which brings us to this morning. We started off, based on the advice of the experts at Two Rivers, with a very short run in our new shoes. We then changed back into our old shoes and finished off our run, still trying to replicate the more natural technique that came so naturally in our new shoes.
As we left the house, I could feel the difference immediately running in my Merrells, and I could feel it again putting my Kinvaras back on. In the new shoes I was light, fast and in spite of getting used to the new technique comfortable. In my transition shoes I was less light, I sank in the padding, and although I was comfortable, I didn’t feel as efficient or in touch with the ground.
So in the end this post isn’t about running, or the benefits of going natural. It’s not even about how much smarter Jennifer is than I. It’s about owning your ignorance. Had I owned up to the fact that I knew very little about natural running, and that I didn’t in fact know exactly what I wanted. If I had not been afraid to look stupid in front of the guy at my local running store, I would have learned much sooner how liberating minimalist running can be. I would have been more efficient and not spent a week out of commission because I was afraid to ask about proper technique when I bought the Kinvaras. I would have been happier, perhaps, running for the last 9 months. Too often we’re afraid to own our ignorance. We’re afraid to let on that maybe we don’t know. Maybe we’re scared. Maybe we’re confused. The story of my running shoes could have been any one of a hundred stories that make the same point.
As a teacher, I have time and again been reminded of the importance of owning my ignorance. Being in a position where experience and our administrators tell us that we are supposed to be in control, that we are the guiding light in our classrooms, it becomes easiest and safest to shine our light only in only one direction–straight ahead. We fear exploring subjects in which we have no experience or of which we have limited knowledge. We need to have the answers we feel, our students are depending on us. In the end we learn nothing new and our students don’t get to experience the freedom of running barefoot, so to speak.
Owning the fact that there are things about which I know little, but am very willing to learn, has opened up new opportunities for my class and I to learn together, without fear of being wrong. It has also allowed me to learn from my students. Because, yes, there are things that they know that I don’t. When students see that I am willing to know less that they know, and to let them teach me about things (like technology) that they know more intimately, they are empowered. It has the added advantage of making me appear uninformed rather than just plain stupid as I try to fudge my way through difficult questions.