[Revealing fact that may be important to this story later: I financed most of my graduate education teaching 10-pin bowling.]

I’m writing from the 3M National Teaching Fellows retreat: four nights at Banff Springs with ten of Canada’s top teachers and educational leaders.

I knew very little about the format of the program. Past winners said little about content, yet used words like “transformative” and “life changing.” I was surprised how the first day was so non-directive, full of conversation on topics generated by the group.

When I awoke on Sunday morning, I began reflecting on the first day, eager to milk the experience for the learning. Although the facilitators told us to follow the poster in the elevator “Relax. Indulge. Celebrate,” I was looking for some instrumental benefit.

We capped Day 1 with 5-pin bowling (not what I taught to undergrads who needed a P.E. credit and didn’t like to sweat or change their clothes). As soon as we were put in teams and were given a game to play, my competitive juices started firing. As I reflected, I realized how I became focused on my lane, especially when I was told I should be captain. I became the Skip, telling my teammates which shots to attempt as we tried to clear the “bingo bowling” card filled with strikes, spares, and an array of numbers.
I frequently quote John Dewey, “learning comes not from experience, but from reflecting on experience.” As I looked back, I found the gem. When in competition, one of my defaults has been to get demanding of my teammates if they are not performing up to my high-standard (that I’ve imposed on them without consultation). Let’s put it this way — through no fault of his own, the guy who was not the strongest pin-meister amongst us represented the company who bankrolls the award and this luxurious weekend. It would have been SO utterly not cool to harsh out on him for less than elite precision in taking out the desired combination of pins. Thus, I remained smiling and supportive of my whole team. Not only did everyone have a lot more fun this way (including yours truly), we also edged out the pin-savvy bunch in the next lane.

Not giving myself permission to be a butt-head, there was a great lesson in the value of developing and maintaining human connection and appreciation. Nice to see that the stuff I go around preaching to others works so well when I implement it myself.

The learning was extended on Sunday when we went to the Banff Centre for Creativity and had a session of group exercises using clay. 20111121-090052.jpgThe activities were set up with an invitation to play. My engagement with teammates was like improv – lots of give and take with no agenda; a lot more laughter. Stay tuned for more about this exceptional weekend. I hope you are as psyched for Monday as I am.


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