Monday, February 6, 2017

The Subtle Beauty of Early Morning Learning Walks

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how wearable technology was changing my behavior for the better. After a month of walking at least 8000 steps per day, I've upped my daily step goal to 10,000. Apparently, 10,000 steps (approximately 5 miles) per day is one of those magic numbers, like drinking at least 64 ounces of water each day, that is significant to personal wellness. I'm finding that hitting the daily 10,000 step goal is rather easy if I do one simple thing.


I walk at least one complete lap through and around my school before the first bell.


My school is three stories tall. To walk from one end of the school to the other takes me approximately 1000 steps covering a distance of about 1/2 mile. My serpentine path through the school gets me 1/3 the way to my daily step goal and adds six flights of stairs as a bonus. But wait, that's not all. I've discovered a few additional benefits to walking through the entire school first thing in the morning.

  • The early-arriving students typically sit by themselves in the hallways waiting for school to begin. They're usually texting on their smartphones, watching videos on YouTube, or completing their homework. I say, "good morning" to each student as I pass. I can't be sure of the full impact, but I almost always get a smile and a "good morning" in return. (Relationship building / A welcoming environment)
  • As I meander through the hallways, I will stop to pick up scraps of paper, a misplaced book, and occasionally some loose change that has fallen on the floor. Last year, I picked up $21.47 in loose change that I donated to our school's family crisis fund. Our maintenance team is second-to-none, they are able to focus on more important tasks if the hallways are free from debris. It also sends a message to students that no one is above picking up after one another. (Fostering a culture of school pride)
  • My building walk provides me some distance away from my desk phone and computer. While walking, I'm following up on completed HelpDesk tickets, processing my daily to-do list, and checking in with teachers who have contacted me with tech questions. I'm closing the loop on some tasks while looking for issues that our team can be proactive in solving. The before school stroll provides time for reflection and planning. I often use my smartphone to take pictures and record audio notes about things that merit our attention. (Education is a service-based industry)

Several of our staff members take building walks during their lunch periods. In pairs or small groups, I have a growing appreciation for this simple way of nurturing personal wellness and fostering community togetherness. As the weather improves, I plan to extend my walks to the parking lots and surrounding athletic fields. Many teachers, students, and their parents are finding tremendous value in taking "learning walks." In the UK, some schools are seeing measurable gains in student achievement after implementing a daily mile program. The evidence is indisputable, movement is good for us, physically and mentally. I am enjoying increased productivity, more social connectedness, and greater professional enjoyment as a result of walking forty to sixty minutes through my building before school each morning. Learning walks may be just the thing for igniting your professional learning program, for implementing a school-wide wellness initiative, or for simply improving school climate and engagement.

photo credit: Pixabay CC0 - Pexels, May 2016

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