Safe Routes to School Training #1: Done!

Day’s Verse:
It’s better to be wise than strong;
intelligence outranks muscle any day.

Proverbs 24:5

All right, this isn’t the world’s shortest or most creative title, but it does get the job done, and it has the added bonus of giving you a taste of what the rest of this post is going to be like: Long and workmanlike. That said, let’s dive into it.

…I started to write a post describing what happened during the training, but that’s just not compelling to me right now. Instead, here are some things that stuck out to me.

1. Running the training even with helpers is very draining (I’m letting Future Katie worry about the trainings she’s teaching by herself). The elementary and middle school PE teachers seem an awfully lot like the students they teach, probably not by coincidence, so they tended to do well with the hands-on interactive parts of the training and very quickly started getting bored and distracted during PowerPoint presentations. For example, when I told them, “It’s important to have a slight bend in your knee at the bottom of the pedal stroke,” they looked bored. When I had them stand up and try walking around squatting as if their knees weren’t extended while pedaling, they got it. But that kind of interaction takes serious effort and tires me out. Also, I started going into people overload by the end of the first day of training, and I needed time by myself to recharge.

2. Lynden is flat, but makes up for it by having constant, steady, strong wind. (I hear Holland is like that. Must’ve felt homey to the Dutch people who originally settled Lynden.)

3. You can tell people to bring a lunch and have their bikes checked out before the class, and they’ll all still come on Wal-Mart specials they borrowed from a friend’s garage that morning. One guy’s pedal fell off during the road ride. The ABC Quick Check doesn’t cover that! Only one of the participants rode a bike with any frequency, and many of them couldn’t remember the last time they’d been on a bike. That’s a very, very different demographic than the groups I’ve taught with Cascade for their Urban Cycling Techniques class. However, they were much more engaged and willing to participate than I expected, and overall the tone of the class felt upbeat. The students were laughing and joking, at least, and that’s always a good thing.

4. PowerPoint is boring, but good for showing pictures. Is there some other way to teach principles of traffic law besides lecturing, in the short time we have? I hope so, because I’m no lecturer and on Tuesday I’m teaching a group in Sedro-Woolley. Plus I don’t have a laptop, which makes using PowerPoint difficult.

5. Eileen did most of the teaching about the kids’ curriculum side of things, which is what the teachers were really interested in. I’m questioning whether trying to push through all the Traffic Skills 101 need-to-knows is worth it for teachers, who keep wanting to know how it relates to what they’re teaching their students. Throughout the class, we kept having to try to distinguish “This is only for adults” versus “This is something you’ll teach your kids.” It felt cumbersome, and I kind of wonder if it’s (a) worth teaching all of TS101; and (b) wise to have TS101 and the kids’ material so integrated with each other. Future Katie is going to worry about teaching teachers something she’s never actually taught to kids herself. But as somebody reminded me today: The teachers don’t know any better, right? So whatever I tell them is what they’re getting. They don’t know I don’t have 30 years of experience teaching, the way Eileen does (OK, obviously since I’m not 30 years old yet I can’t have taught for that long, but you get the point).

6. PE teachers are exceptionally good at coming up with ideas for games.

7. MORE HANDS-ON LEARNING.

8. PE teachers are also coaches, and coaches have athletic events that they have to leave for early in the afternoon. That means training scheduled to end at, say, 4:00 pm will have very few people actually still there at 4:00 pm. We had 3 of 7 people leave early the first day, and it would’ve been the same on the second day except we finished early. We’ll have to dramatically revamp the afternoon sessions so that people who have to leave early don’t miss stuff they can’t pick up later or by themselves. That’s going to be very difficult.

9. It’s impossible to remember participants’ behavior on the bike detailed enough to do an accurate assessment on the TS101 road ride rubric. So we just try to think of any egregious mistakes they made and say everything else was good. Everybody passed. In fact, we had two people who were firm “ride facing traffic” advocates to start with, and by the end they did the road ride with all the same good vehicular cycling behavior you’d hope for. It was really encouraging to see. At the very end, after everybody else left, the organizer told us something amazing: Some of the participants hadn’t talked to each other that civilly in years. The positive vibe we got during the training — that was new. One teacher had actually switched schools because of the conflict. Wow! Not only did they learn a bunch about bicycling (and pedestrian stuff too); not only did they get this kick-ass curriculum in a gorgeous shiny binder; but they also got a great positive team-building experience, too. I’m deeply grateful that the organizer told us that. It made the whole thing feel worth it.

10. I’m hungry and I have a super intense, hilly ride tomorrow. Time to eat, and then eat some more for good measure. Oh, real quick, I’ll add that I had a PT appointment focused on therapeutic massage for my back. My PT guy has a student, which is cool, but it’s a little weird to have them talking about me…while I’m laying there on the table. Reminds me of a time when I was getting fitted for my back brace and the doctor actually called his student into the room from elsewhere. He said “Wow, look at this amazing classic [whatever]! You never see this!” Also, although I’m sure they used English words it was still a completely different vocabulary, which made me feel a bit more like a specimen and less like a person. The massage was very light because anything else was fairly tender. Maybe next time will go better.