Did We Just Do P.D.?

The staff agrees to complete a training program to compete together in an event.

Photo of Jen Ortlinghaus
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Here are some details that will help explain how this group training program has been successful in the past:

How the Program Began

I am an experienced runner (21 marathons and many other shorter distances) and wanted to bring my knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport to my colleagues. Not knowing if anyone would be interested or willing to participateI spoke to staff members individually. The personal contact and explanation of the training made it more likely for staff to agree to join. (It was hard to say "no" aloud and in person.)

How the Program was Organized

When a staff member joined, he or she would give me an email address for receiving workouts, advice, and links to race websites. Each week I wrote a 7-day training plan and emailed it to participants. There were 3 levels: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. The plan would contain a weekly mileage goal, speed workout, long run, and other important tips. Communicating via email made it easy for participants to get questions answered quickly.

Once per week the group met after school to do the group run and running drills. I mapped out a route, and there were groups of different paces running or run/walking together. The participants did a 10 week training plan, and all were successful in completing a 10K event.

During the Program

Many of my colleagues began this training with hesitation. Some thought they could never finish the 10K distance. After some practice and group workouts, the running and training dominated all conversations in the staff room, at lunch time, and in the hallways.  People were constantly asking for advice, about injuries, about nutrition, how to improve, etc. However, when we were doing the workouts, we mainly talked about what was happening at school!

I believe that having a colleague support new runners in the experience also helped build confidence. Everyone knew what to wear, what to eat and drink, how to wear a race bib, how to warm-up, and running etiquette when it was time for the event.

Because we met after school and on campus, many students and families saw us running. They encouraged us, and some students and parents ended up registering for other races after our event. Our 10K was the Empire Runners Last 10K which takes place every December in Santa Rosa.

I have guided my colleagues in preparing for and completing 2 more races since our original event.

District-Wide Implementation

It would be amazing if we could have a running program throughout the district. There is evidence that interest in healthy lifestyles and physical activities exits at other sites. (12 teacher from Kenilworth Junior High completed the Ragnar Relay last fall.) In order to offer the running program to entire school district, I think that each site would need a representative to act as the coach or leader. All sites could be doing the same training (the leader would not have to be experienced) and could benefit from one person or a small team of teachers preparing a emailing the weekly training plans. Ideally, the district would agree on a race event to complete together. Each site could have its own matching shirts, uniforms, or costumes. It would be powerful for staff to complete a challenging event together, and it would be incredible for students and families to be able to see it happening!


This is professional development that doesn't feel like p.d. The plan is to have teachers and staff agree to participate in a 10 week training program that culminates in everyone running a 10K race together. Weekly group workouts are offered, and leveled training plans are e-mailed to participants each week. The leader of the training program could bring in guest speakers, and organize the final race event

Staff would learn about the history of the marathon (could be used in class for world history) and the Boston Marathon (helpful in U.S. history.) 

For elementary teachers who are required to teach Physical Education, learning about different types of workouts, modifications, drills, stretching, nutrition, and fueling can be passed onto the students. Perhaps instead of sending kids out to just run some laps could turn into more meaningful lessons.

The group will learn about perseverance, which happens to be completely in-line with Common Core.

I know this plan works because I offered it to my staff on a volunteer basis, and approximately 20 members successfully completed the 10K. At the start, most believed they couldn't complete the distance.

The event doesn't have to be running. It could be dance lessons, disc golf, rock climbing, etc.

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7 comments

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Photo of Margaret Powers
Team

Hi Jen, would you be interested in teaming up with Kelly Matteri and starting a Google doc to build out this idea? 

Photo of Emma Scripps
Team

Love this idea! Jen Ortlinghaus You should put a sample agenda together for one of the days within this retreat. 

Photo of Margaret Powers
Team

This sounds like a lot of fun! Can you share more about what inspired you to have this idea and how we might be able to scale it across different schools (e.g., how could a teacher start this?)?

Photo of Jen Ortlinghaus
Team

Hello, Margaret! Thanks for the comment. My inspiration for this idea came from my previous running experience, and the many questions my colleagues had about my "racing adventures." In order to scale it across different schools, we would have to find a common meeting pace for group workouts; however, the weekly training plans I  mentioned could still be sent via e-mail. I think that staff from different sites could possibly designate a site leader, who could then lead site-based activities. The way I started this program for my school was to approach people individually (beginning with the principal) to find out if there was any interest. There was more enthusiasm than I predicted, end the "undecided" participants were encouraged by a face-to-face invitation. During the training program, the overall attitude and atmosphere in the "staff room" was changed in a positive way.

Photo of Chris Good
Team

Love this! A little bit team building - a little bit self exploration! I wonder if there is a way to combine this with other PD programs so there can still be a way to foster in depth exploration of specific topics as well.

What i love most about this though is that this kind of engagment can make any PD program more impactful.

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
Team

Kelly Matteri This idea seems like it captures some of the spirit in your Roller Derby Saved My ... Teaching Career.   – putting teachers in a place where they are "newbies" and remembering what it's like to struggle. What do you think?  What could make this idea better? 

Photo of Charles Shryock, IV
Team

I like this idea because it puts teachers in a learning mindset, while also improving general health and wellness.  I'm curious, did you see the PBL the Adult Learning post during Discovery from Kaleb Rashad ? I'm wondering what other kinds of projects a group like this could tackle.