Day 1 – AGAIN?!

On November 10, I started my comeback.  I was ready.  I was fired up.  I was focused.

I was still injured.

I just didn’t want to admit it.

I figured that I’d take it slowly and that I’d build up the mileage over time.  The plan did make sense.  It really did.  Except for one fact, I was still injured.  I had torn my Achilles a while back.  (I really don’t know when.  Pain has been a part of my running for a long time now.  I probably tweaked the tendon and just ran and ran on it making it worse and worse.  Who knows?)

I ran one mile on that November day and felt good enough.  Two days later, I ran one mile again.  The next day, I ran two.  (For a marathoner, like me, this is taking it VERY slowly.)

I then needed four days off before running two miles on back-to-back days (November 18 and 19).  This was slow, but steady progress.  After three more days off, I covered my first three miler.  Two days later, I did back-to-back days of two miles again.  

I was being smart.  I stretched.  I took a lot of off days.  I didn’t run fast.  Moderation was the key.  

But I was still injured.  After a one mile run on November 29, I shut it down again.

In between runs, I was hobbling all over the place.  

Today, two and a half weeks after I stopped, I just ran one mile.  I’m now icing my Achilles.  But… it doesn’t hurt.  I visited my great chiropractor/sports injury doctor (Dr. Alfonse DeMaria) four times in the last few weeks.  He is a miracle worker.  I had felt pretty good for almost a week, so I figured I’d try one mile today and see what happens.

So far, all seems good.

The first step of my (new) comeback seems successful.  

I just hope this isn’t another false start.

I have a few marathons to run in 2018 and I need to get going!

 

 

 

 

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Schulz and Success

I just finished reading,  Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography (by David Michaelis) an excellent book that provided an in-depth look at Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip and franchise.  Schulz’s life was fascinating.  He was successful beyond his wildest dreams.  His characters became household names.  His sayings have been quotes by millions.  In many ways, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, Sally, and Snoopy defined America in the second half of the 20th Century.

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Insignificant?

I think, in a way, we are very spoiled.  The world is at our fingertips.  We can see amazing things whenever we want.  Some of the amazing things we see are real, some of them might even be staged (“reality TV”), but, nonetheless, in the moment at least, what we are watching seems real, amazing, other worldly, and significant. 

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Day #1

 I have run a countless number of races in my life.  Yes, this includes 20 marathons.  (I always keep an accurate count of my marathons.)

I love to run.

I have often stated that the marathon defines me. 

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Sometimes You Can’t?

Sometimes we can’t accomplish what we set our minds to do.

Sometimes impossible isn’t an illusion… it is real.  Or, at least it seems real.  We strive, we reach, we try – and we fall short, we stumble, we fall.  We reach and try again.  And fall and fail.  We fall and fail and fail again.  Or so it seems…

Sometimes the goal, whatever it is, seems too hard, too distant, too impossible.  We say, “I can’t.”  We say, “It’ll never happen.”  

What then?

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Limits

Often times we say, “I can’t do that” or “I’m not good at that.”  (I am as guilty of this as anyone.  There’s a lot I sometimes believe I can’t do.)

When we say the words, “I can’t,” we are limiting ourselves.  As a result, I believe that some of the most damaging words in our language are “I can’t.” 

When we say we can’t, we make our own lives poorer – not richer.  When we say we can’t, we eliminate the possibilities and the learning that comes with and from new experiences.  When we say we can’t, our world becomes smaller, our interests become fewer, and we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to learn more about ourselves.

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The Houston Astros and You!

(The following is a modified (slightly shortened and less school specific) version of the message I sent to my teaching staff as we begin to prepare for the opening of the 2017-18 school year in a few weeks.  The message applies to all individuals in all walks of life and all professions.)

When I was a child growing up in the late 1970’s, the Houston Astros had very cool uniforms. 

I was a Yankees fan (that is deep-seated in my blood), but there were times when I wished the Yankees could at least be a little more colorful.  I, of course, love the Yankees’ midnight blue pinstripes and the interlocking NY, but for a kid, that Astros rainbow uniform was a lot more eye-catching!

The Astros also were also a pretty unique team.  They played in the only domed stadium (The Astrodome), they played on fake grass (Astroturf), they had exciting players like Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard, and Cesar Cedeno (pictured above).  The Astros were even featured in one of the Bad News Bears movies!

None of that influenced me enough to be an Astros fan, but it is undeniable that there was a certain appeal to rooting for the Houston Astros. 

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Our Words Matter, Always.

The words we use matter, always.  

When we offer kindness, love, and support, we build people up.

When we are critical, or unkind, or mean, the words we deliver bring people down.  

On the pages of my blog, in educational journals, and in other forums, I have often shared stories of how kind words make a positive difference.  It happens all of the time.

When I run races, especially marathons, the words of encouragement shouted from the spectators makes an absolute difference in my mental state and my performance.  When people call out, “You look great” or “You can do it!” I believe them – sincerely and absolutely.  Positive words from people I don’t know and will never meet have helped me in each of my twenty marathons.

Just yesterday I was playing softball in the league I compete in.  I was fortunate, I had a good day.  It seemed that every ball hit to me at shortstop, I handled cleanly.  Each time, my teammates shouted, “Great play” or “Paul, you’re doing super today.”  The confidence from my teammates helped to make me have more confidence in myself, and, as a result, I played better.  

Words matter.  Absolutely.  Always.

A while back, I wrote a column titled Newton, Autographs, and the Teacher.  (That essay is contained in my new book Impossible is an Illusion.) In that passage, I wrote the following:

“I sometimes sit in awe of the tremendous power a teacher possesses – the tremendous impact that a teacher has on a child’s self-image now – and in the future. A teacher can use his autograph, the imprint he leaves on a child, to change a life. The positive words teachers leave inspire children to work harder, to give more, and to always strive to be their better selves.”

And, while I sincerely believe all of that to be true, I think, sometimes, we forget the impact we have on others and the simple fact that our own words matter.  It’s easy to point out how other people have brought us up or down, but it’s more difficult to examine when we have a similar impact on others.  (After all, I didn’t say to my teammates, “Keep telling me how good I am, it’ll make me even better.”  All I did was smile and give high fives and fist bumps – and hope that I would continue to catch everything hit my way.  Similarly, in a marathon, I don’t stop when people cheer for me.  I never go back to the spectator to say, “Your kind words are helping me through the race.”)

But, sometimes, out of the blue, a word is said, a card arrives in the mail, or an e-mail comes through that reminds us of our impact on others.  Again, I think this is especially true for teachers and other educators because our words impact on the people who are the future.  By providing support, kindness, affirmation, and even love, educators can help to shape a positive world and a positive future.  

I was reminded of this fact just the other day when I received the following message in my e-mail:

Good afternoon Dr. Semendinger,
I am not sure if you remember me, but I was a student of yours in the Seminar Class at William Paterson in the Spring Semester of 2014. 
After a rough experience with my cooperating teacher during my student teaching, I took some time off to do some reflecting on where I wanted to head career wise.  While I was cleaning off my desk, I found a paper I wrote for your class and you wrote “always be the positive difference in the classroom.”  At that moment I realized I shouldn’t let a bad experience ruin my dream of becoming a teacher. 
This past school year I took a paraprofessional aide job at my former middle school to help me become acclimated again in an educational environment.  It was by far the best decision I have ever made!  I was an in-class support aide, filled a maternity leave position, got recommended for a tutoring job, and even chaperoned numerous field trips.  Most importantly I found my passion again that I was missing!
Thank you for your time and everything you have done for me.
With sincerity,
(A Former Student)

I taught this student over three years ago.  It wasn’t yesterday…

But my words mattered.

Absolutely.

And it was only eight words.  Eight.  That’s all I wrote.  I didn’t write a paragraph.  I didn’t write even ten words.  I wrote eight.  And yet, those words made a difference to this former student.  A huge difference.  In a way, I helped to change a life.  In a bigger way, as this former student becomes a teacher who hopefully spreads kindness and a positive message, those eight words will influence many more people.

This is the power that good can bring.  It is the impact of kindness.  It is what truly matters.

Henry Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

As educators, our biggest job is helping our students learn to believe in themselves.  Our job is to build up others.  We need to encourage.  We need to support.  We need to set the highest standards.  We need to be kind.  We need to love…  

These are the simple elements that truly make a difference.  

And so…

As we plan lessons, and programs…

As we design assessment tools and grading formulas…

As we create curriculum and input data into on-line programs…

We must never forget that our most important job as educators is to reach the hearts of our students.  We must bring passion to our classrooms.  We must look to the good.  

And we must never forget that our words matter – and as such, we must use them, today and every day, to build others up in a meaningful way.

Impossible is an Illusion!

My book of motivational, inspirational, and (sometimes) funny essays is now available on Amazon and other book retailers.

If you enjoy my blog writing, you will certainly enjoy this book.

The feedback has been tremendously positive.

Please take a look!

Impossible is an Illusion by Dr. Paul Semendinger

 

 

 

Living A Dream

I truly believe we can all be almost anything we want to be.  I think it just takes hard work, perseverance, some creativity, and, maybe, a little luck.  Sometimes, I think, we also have to modify our dreams a little.  Last week, I got to live out, in a sense, one of my childhood dreams.

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