Just as we left it pissed down. The rain clouds, remnants of some tropical cyclone, seemed to arrive just as we began our mountain bike. Oh well, I was committed now so there was no escape and no escape for the other seven ‘expert cyclists’ that were to accompany me on our ride. Anyway, one would never survive the barrage of insults and shame that could be inflicted if they were to give up that easily, however the rain was torrential and I was already wet through, but I don’t think I was the only one who considered faking a flat tire at that point.
We rode for a few kilometres and not long after the rain stopped. The sun came out and now it was the most unbelievably humid day as we snaked our way on down along the coast road that lead to the Motu Bridge. The conversation in my head, now important, as no one really spoke. “Stick to the white line…whew!... that car was close…shit that silage stinks…. another bloody close car….first hill, granny gear will be noticed…bugger it I’ll grind it out and try to keep up….ah shit…granny gear”. The others arrogantly passed me, and I am sure they were smiling to themselves. “Bastards..… Don’t say a damn thing…. just keep on riding…I don’t want your words of encouragement” the internal dialogue followed my energy levels into deficit mode. I was really glad when we found large rocks on the road, and to be honest I’ve never been happier to stop and help. Even the small ones could be dangerous, so I painstakingly removed every single one. Now it was time to get back on the bike.
The hardest part of the ride was yet to come. At the forestry gate we prepared for the long climb. Jackets off, water drunk, half a muesli bar, a quick tyre check, other half of muesli bar, more water, pass the bikes over the gate, a quick tyre check and once I had nothing else to use as an excuse it began, the slog uphill that the ‘expert cyclists’ called fun.
I began the climb at the back of the bunch, no use embarrassing myself trying to lead up the hill. I settled into a default rhythm breathing and pedalling, breathing and pedalling sounding ‘for all the world’ like every breath was my last. I was in survival mode. I got a bit of relief when my chain came off and jammed a few times. (handy when you know how) I ended up walking most of the steeper bits “those bastards made it look so easy”. They would stop every now and then but I just scowled and kept on pedalling, right on past them. No point wasting my energy talking. I may as well keep going and let them catch up and pass. They stared, smiled and whispered, I’m sure. This happened a few times but the last time they passed me, it was on the steepest hill of them all. In fact, I am sure that if I lost my footing, while pushing my bike, I would have bounced and skidded all the way back to the bottom. “Bastard” I muttered as yet another 'expert cyclist' rode on by “Pardon” he said… “Oh nuthin” I snapped. “I’m just talking to myself”. “Bastard”. He looked back again before tearing off like a steaming stallion up the steep hill.
Upon reaching the top of this last hill I managed to ride the next fifty metres to the waiting group of 'expert cyclists'. They were all just standing there, chatting, bikes strewn all around, muesli bars in hand. “What’s the matter”? I managed to chortle in between huge deep breaths. Seven puzzled people looked at me as if to say isn’t it obvious? “We’re at the top” the 69 year old said. I know what he really meant. “How does it feel to be beaten by an old bastard…eh?….eh?.. How does it bloody feel”? Yeah he didn’t say it but that’s what he meant. “Oh really…. the top eh”? I turned around to see the most amazing panorama spread before me. “Holy shit…Look how far we’ve come…WOW” I shouted excitedly. “I am so glad I am here”!
Ok, so this is a bit of a strange blog, so I should tell you that I often blog when a metaphor that best explains my thinking is discovered and this ‘mostly’ true mountain bike ride over Easter time has some valid parallels in it.
At Hobsonville Point Secondary School, like most schools, we have had a very busy start to the year, although ours has differed because we have been in ‘ground breaking mode’. This means that we have all been involved in a new process that has seen us begin to develop the culture of learning at our school over the last term. We have designed our first courses, met our foundation students, formed learning HUB’s, formed relationships, met with critical friends, met with leadership mentors, met with teaching teams, shared offices, learning environments, resources, toilets, educational philosophies and Google drives. We have contributed to wider school structure, specialised areas, project teams and areas of learning. We’ve read a thousand emails, sent a few replies, ordered heaps resources and tried to manage them. We have planned, reported, conceptualised and organised. We’ve argued, discussed, collaborated, co-constructed and at times expressed emotion with people. Oh yes, and We’ve shared in a few lessons and I know that I have learnt just as many along the way. At the end of the day it’s been a busy term and just to let you know there has been some awesome learning experiences happening as well.
It’s been a very big start to our HPSS journey and I don’t know of anyone I work with who is not tired to some degree after this term. I know that at times I have felt the pressure and resorted to the type of thinking that is similar to the thinking shared about my mountain biking experience. Those times have usually been when there have been big tasks to complete or curveballs to catch and instead of looking at the overall big picture I have completely looked at and tried to serve my own needs instead. I now realise that to function in my job I need to have a firm grasp and belief in the school vision and frequently revisit reasons why I set out on this journey.
Those ‘expert cyclists’ who took frequent breaks on my mountain bike ride, the ones that I rode right past, were not at all surprised by the grandeur of our destination. They had the sense to stop and regularly take stock of where they were going and of where they had come from. On my ride I only focussed on the steep path and was totally overwhelmed by the task ahead. Every bump, rut, rock and close passing car became an issue, in fact I am surprised I made it to the top at all. I am not saying that my entire term at HPSS has been like this but my point is that when you are ‘head down and arse up’ it is very easy to miss all the good stuff and for me this is why I teach.
At the top of the HPSS term one mountain is so much to celebrate. I will take more time to identify and celebrate those things more regularly and hopefully say “Holy shit…Look how far we’ve come…WOW.... I am so glad I am here”!