7 Things Auto Racing Taught Me About Teaching

Connections to learning and teaching that I made while autocrossing my car. My favorite is about taking ride alongs.
I will start out by saying that one of my favorite blogs in the world to read is Jennifer's from Cult of Pedagogy. I recently came across her post 4 Things I've Learned About Teaching From CrossFit  and it made me start thinking about how my experiences in life shape how I am in the classroom. After pondering, I started to think about what I have carried over from my hobby of autocross, a type of auto racing, and I thought I would share. 

Maintenance is Vital

In auto racing you are constantly fixing or checking something. Some things are routine like oil changes, and sometimes you have to replace a whole engine. 

Likewise in teaching our Professional Development is what keeps us fresh. Sometimes it is a faculty meeting or planning with your team that "change our oil." Other times we have to get extensive training on a new curriculum or area that we struggle with. Either way, we are better teachers for it. 

Study the Course

One of the first things I do in the morning when racing is walk the course. I try to memorize it to the best of my ability to know what is coming up. I visualize where I will apex in a turn, where I need to slow down, and where I can really hit the gas. 

In teaching our course is the curriculum, and it is important that we know it backwards and forwards. We need to know our standards as well as where our students are, so that we can front load information and stay on track. 

 You Are At Your Best When Challenged

Halfway through the last racing season I switched cars. I went from the cute little red Miata you see above which is rear wheel drive to the sporty little silver CRX seen below which is front wheel drive. Basically the only thing they have in common is that they are little. I really struggled/am still struggling to learn the new car. It has been a challenge to say the least, and has been frustrating at times. Through it all though, my driving skills have become sharper, and I know I am better for it. 

Sometimes it is all too easy to get comfortable with doing the same thing each year in our classrooms, but when that something is not what is best for our students we need to challenge ourselves to branch out and try something new. 

The People Make It Worth It

As much fun as I have racing, the absolute best part is the people that I have met doing it. I have formed life long friendships with people who enjoy the same things I do. 

In teaching it is important to find your tribe and surround yourself with others who are positive teachers who also love what they do. Teaching is tough, and you need a support system of people to help you at your hardest moments. Build up those bonds and help each other out. 

Ride Alongs Are Encouraged

You can study a course all you want, but there is no substitute for taking a ride along with another driver. Seeing the course at speed offers a whole new vantage point. Also, seeing how other people take a course slightly differently from how you do it can only improve your skill set too. 

There is also no substitute for observing another teacher teach. You can talk through lessons until you are blue in the face, but actually seeing it taught with a class of students is a whole different thing. I can't tell you the number of times that I observed a teammate teach the same lesson I did, but in a different way. It was always eye opening. 

You Never Stop Learning

There is no plateau to your driving skills. They need to be constantly practiced, reviewed, and tried again. Seat time is the only way to continually improve. 

You will learn something new every day in your classroom. Most days it won't be what you thought it would be either.

There is plenty of learning that can improve your teaching going on outside of the classroom too. Personally, I LOVE to stay up to date by reading books about education. My current favorites are (affiliate links) How Children Succeed, Unshakable, and Teach Like a Pirate

Connections to learning and teaching that I made while autocrossing my car. My favorite is about taking ride alongs. Look Ahead

In racing if you are looking at the turn coming up, you are already behind. You need to constantly be looking far, far ahead to prepare yourself for the twists and turns.

In education you should never stop planning. Even when your world is crashing down around you, and I know that it does from time to time, the one thing that you can never stop is planning. 

In Reflection

To be successful in both auto racing and teaching make sure to perform regular maintenance, know the course, challenge yourself with new things, surround yourself with positivity, take ride alongs, never stop learning, and look ahead. 


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