Don’t Look Up

I do stairs regularly as part of my exercise regime. Today, I did a set of stairs that were particularly difficult. They were steep and seemed to go on forever.

176 stairs down and 176 stairs up.

It was the UP that was hurting me today.

I’d get about one third of the way up the stairs that never seemed to end, and I’d look up, only to see the flights of stairs still waiting for my feet to touch. About the same time, my mind would be overcome by the enormity of what was to follow and, inevitably, my legs would slow down. Instead of taking two steps at a time with my hands clasped behind my back, my legs would only lift my feet one stair at a time and my arms slowly began to yearn to grasp the side railing calling my name. Inevitably, that’s what would happen and then I would be frustrated with myself as people would pass me (I’m just a tad competitive).

On my final set, which is usually the most difficult, I decided to play a little game with myself. I decided I would only look at the couple stairs in front of me, where my feet were going to be placed next, and not look up at all. I would try to stay disciplined and keep my hands clasped behind my back and I would pretend that railing didn’t exist.

Away I went.

Up to 50 no problem.

Up to 100, feeling strong.

Up to 150, keeping strict with my fingers still clasped behind my back.

Up to the top of 176 stairs without looking up once.


I felt strong. I felt confident. I felt empowered.

If I could have high-fived myself without looking completely insane, I would have.

My last set was my easiest! What a feeling! What an accomplishment!

And, to top things off, no one passed me on my way up. There were people right behind me, struggling more than I. I could hear their breathing. I could hear their foot steps in sync with mine. I could tell that we were motivating each other to continue to keep working hard and focusing on our goal just ahead.

This stair climbing adventure today got me thinking about education and how some educators must feel as they attempt to transform their classrooms into more student-centred, project-based, engaging learning spaces. How overwhelming it must feel to look ahead to the never-ending list of things that one “should”, “could”, or may “want” to be doing to transform this learning environment. The books that one may want to read, the strategies that one may want to try to implement, and the other resources that one may want to tap into. Overwhelming. All the while comparing and watching as people continue to move forward, seemingly more quickly than them. While the others seem to be getting stronger, you feel overcome by the enormity of it all and, as a result, you slow down or stop altogether.

My advice, as I look back on my stair climbing adventure today, don’t look up. Don’t look too far in advance. While it is important to have a good idea of where you want to go, keep focused on the here and now. Keep trying new things, new strategies, and taking advantage of new resources. Try not to get overwhelmed. If you do, just grab ahold of the nearest support and have them help you up to the next plateau. What everyone needs to realize is that we are all struggling in our own way to move forward. It isn’t easy and doesn’t get easy as we learn to transform our learning environments.

Take one step at a time.

Stay focused.

Ask for help.

Accept help.

Learn from your colleagues.

Another piece of advice, remember to look back on where you were so that you can celebrate your accomplishments when you see how far you have come.

I hope everyone has an amazing 2013/2014 school year! Best wishes to you all in your learning journey!

What are some recommendations you have for your colleagues as they start this new school year?

* Note: the photos featured here are not of the actual stairs I did today, but are of another set of stairs I did in another location.

Published by Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.

19 thoughts on “Don’t Look Up

  1. Tia

    I love this post. To me it encompasses all the feelings that I have surrounding my massive list of things to do before school starts. At the beginning of summer, it seems like you have oodles of time to get everything done. Now there are only 19 days before school starts and that mountain of things I have to (or should) do before school starts seems just as impossible to manage. I will endeavor to remember your advice and just take one step at a time without looking up so I don’t get discouraged. I will remember to celebrate my acomplishments and take some time to enjoy the fact that is still summer.

    Thanks for sharing and inspiring yet again. You are the best! :0)


  2. Hi Marilyn,

    I feel your pain and relate to what you are saying! I, too, have a stack of book I have not gotten to yet. Oy! I have a lot if things to continue to do, but I need to celebrate what I have accomplished! We all do!

    It’s all good. We need to try not to put too much pressure on ourselves and continue to move forward!

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Marilyn. I appreciate it!

  3. I am not yet a teacher but I am only 2/3 of a semester away from graduating. I have so many assignments to do, a first aid course to complete, an interview with our dept of education and that is all before I start my final internship in 10 days time. Thank you for this reminder today, one step at a time is how I have to manage my time over the next few weeks. I will be in a classroom teaching soon enough, I need to focus on the now. All the best for your new teaching year.

    1. Hi Jane,

      Yes, definitely! This is a message that is good for all of us to relate to, for sure! It is also a message that is needed at certain points of the year than others. Keep it in mind as you finish your teaching certification and as you start your journey as a teacher! Such an exciting time! Best wishes to you!

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it,


  4. GREAT post!! So glad I took the time to read it! I’m returning back to work after basically 2 mat-leaves almost back to back and, although I’m excited, I think I’m more nervous and terrified of failing as a mother and teacher. I have a HUGE to-do list and high expectations of myself. I get lost in it all! So- 1 day at a time, focused and asking for help is what I’m aiming for! THANK YOU!!!

    1. Hi Lilliana,

      Oh, I can relate to your comment very well. I came back from my last mat leave in July, 2011. With three kids at home, it was a real challenge for sure! At times, the guilt and worry can be overwhelming, but trying to remember you are doing the best you can for your family, is very important. I always found it refreshing to cuddle with my kids at the end of each night, making sure we got our nightly stories in. At times, even this seemed overwhelming, but once we were all cuddling, I knew it was exactly what I needed at that point in my day.

      Good luck and if you ever need any cheer leading or a shoulder, keep in mind that I’ve been there (recently)., and I totally understand!

      Take care and thanks for reading and commenting,


  5. Lovely metaphor encapsulating the never ending journey to become our best selves & the best educators we can be. It’s always important to remember that it’s all about taking one step at a time and to keep moving forward.

    1. Thanks, Maia,

      So important to remember to be kind to ourselves, especially as we are about to start a new school year… New adventures and new challenges!

      Best wishes to you in your new position at our new school! You will be wonderful! I look forward to reading about your journey,


    1. Thanks for reading and responding, Karen.

      So often, I think we become discouraged by the enormity of it all. We need to take time to celebrate our successes, no matter how small they may seem to us. We also need to come to the realization that others may make it look easy, but they are also learning as they go and also experience struggles as well.

      Bet wishes for a wonderful 2013/2014, Karen!

  6. Roxanne Commented:

    Such an accurate picture, Tia, of the stairs and the challenge of education. We used to use a picture of a truck with an open, framed back and we called it the vehicle of change. That vehicle needed a driver to keep the truck moving forward; it needed a passenger to remind the driver of where he/she was going and to help them stay on the path. Many people were in the back of the truck cheering on the driver and the co-pilot. Some passengers jumped off the truck but were reminded by those on it that they would go slow enough so if they wanted to get back on they could, and that the passengers on board would be there to help them up. Always, always one or two people stood in front of the truck. These people were asked politely to step aside so the truck and its passengers could move forward and they were always, always welcomed aboard or invited to walk beside for awhile. Your lovely, encouraging words reminded me of this tonight. I wish YOU all the best in your upcoming year. Congrats on the stairs! Literally and figuratively. 🙂

    1. Hi Roxanne,

      I love the truck metaphor – very powerful! I will remember that for sure! Thanks for sharing that here. I appreciate it!

      Thanks for reading and commenting,

  7. Thanks,Tia. Always so thoughtful and on point. As I read your post this morning I had to smile to myself as I was at that exact moment feeling the stress of needing to plan for upcoming presentations, completing 3 books I am in the middle of and knowing full well I did not get to some of the learning on my to do list this summer. I am smiling because you have reminded me to take it one day at a time, take a deep breath, don’t look too far ahead, and enjoy the last days of summer. Great advice.

    1. Hi Anne-Marie,

      Yep, we never get all we planned or intended to get done and/or accomplished. First things first and take it slow. But, yes, remember, enjoy those final days of summer. They will be a distant e memory before we know it!

      Thanks for reading and responding.
      See you soon, hopefully,

  8. Tia,
    The stairs, the endless to do list, the challenges, the seeming impossibilities in front of you,it begs you to give up, to throw up your hands in defeat, to doubt your belief in yourself. But, Tia, it is your passion, commitment and perseverance that helps all of us to remember that we are human, dedicated, passionate, striving, aspiring humans that sometimes need to recenter and refocus. It is when we get caught in the frenzy of action with negative return on our personal investment that we push forward, trying and trying again. It is only when we take time to step back, reflect, and recognize that we need to refocus, to change our ways. You have so beautifully crafted that picture for all of us to carry with us as a reminder. A reminder of all we can be, One Step at a Time.

    1. Hi Linda,

      I agree, often we underestimate things like passion, commitment, and perseverance and we shouldn’t! Those are three of the most inspiring attributes we can bring to the table as educators (and people). Being all we can be, one step at a time, is the only way to go.

      Thanks for reading and for your kind comment,

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