fitness · illness · injury · martial arts · motivation · running · training

Getting back to it after illness or injury (Group post)

Image description: Single flower on the end of a circular branch with two more green buds, more flowers, branches, and greenery blurred in the background. Photo credit: Tracy (China trip)
Image description: Single flower on the end of a circular branch with two more green buds, more flowers, branches, and greenery blurred in the background. Photo credit: Tracy (China trip)

I went running yesterday morning for the first time in what seemed like ages. True, I went for about three runs in March, but each was forced and uncomfortable. I spent most of the month with a relentless cough that sometimes felt as if it was edging into something worse. I could hardly make it to work many days, never mind go for a run.

That all followed on the heels of my trip to India, where running was pretty much out of the question for logistical reasons. And then at the very end of March I went to China, where I think running would have been possible (great sidewalks) but our schedule was super tight (six day whirlwind).

So it’s basically been two months since I did any sort of endurance training. I stuck with my personal training throughout the cough, so I haven’t completely let all of my workouts go. That’s a relief because it was not easy to get myself out the door this morning.

This is a group post that includes paragraphs from me, Christine, Martha, and Sam about getting back into routine after injury or illness.

Tracy — Travel and Illness and More Travel…

As I said, I went for a run yesterday. It was hard — not that I ran hard, but that it was hard to get out the door, hard to run while I was out there, and hard to feel good about having gone because I realized how I’d lost my endurance. But I do have some tips for getting back out there after a hiatus for whatever reason, and here they are (for myself as much as for anyone else).

  1. Call in support. One reason I got out there was that I messaged Anita when I woke up and said I want to go running but I don’t feel like it (if that makes sense). She said, why don’t you go for 20 minutes? Then I posted to our blog author Facebook page group that I was going to go running and a few people said basically “go you!” That was all I needed to get out the door.
  2. Ease into it. Anita suggested 20 minutes, not 45 minutes. 20 minutes is so totally do-able. I know that lots of people think that if you’ve missed a lot you need to make up for lost time. That has never been my approach. I’m always for easing into it in a way that makes it more attractive and less of a chore. I know that eventually I will look forward to long runs again because when I’ve got the conditioning I actually enjoy getting out there for an hour or more. But that’s not now. And this morning showed me that. I had to take some walk breaks. But I did the 20 minutes.
  3. Make yourself accountable to kind people. I told Anita I would check back in after the run. And I did. I also checked back in with the blog group–more pats on the back. And finally I checked in with Linda, my running coach whose training plans I’ve not stuck with over the winter. She has asked me to send her a message whenever I go for a run, just to let her know what I did and how it went. She always comes back with encouragement, even if I send her a message like today’s: “I had to force myself out the door but I did manage the slowest 20 minutes of my life this morning. It was hard. I’ll need to build my endurance back up over the next couple of weeks.”
  4. Have a goal. I can go both ways on goals — sometimes they’re motivating and sometimes they’re oppressive. You need to know yourself on this one. I do have a goal this summer, which is to do what’s left of the local MEC race series, sticking to the 10K distance. That means races on April 21, May 26, September 8, and October 29. April 21 seems a bit close but my goal can be modest (like a continuous run) and then I can ramp it up to improve my times in subsequent events.

Those are the four suggestions I’m offering — to you and to me — to anyone who may have had to take a break and now wants to get back into it. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun. So if it feels like a dreaded chore, something’s not right.

Christine – Recovery from a broken wrist
I broke my wrist on February 27 but since I wasn’t in a lot of pain, I wanted to keep up some form of training in Taekwondo. I’ve been going to my classes and doing my own modified workouts at the back of the room. That includes learning my newest patterns with my right arm in a sling to keep it immobile. I figure that practicing which way to turn, and noting any movement that I can’t do right now will help me get up to speed quickly once my brace comes off on April 16 (fingers crossed).
I’m at the point where I am doing a few rehab exercises and it’s a bit scary how stiff my wrist is but I’m hoping to have a steady improvement with that. I am a bit worried about when the brace comes off – I don’t want to be timid or overly concerned about falling but I’m not sure how to avoid that. Perhaps I am just going to have to accept that worry as part of the healing process.
Martha–Cautious optimism after a popped joint
Back in 2014, my left hip decided to misbehave. The joint popped out several times after that, but in 2016 and again in 2017, I almost went a full year without an issue. I’m heading into my 15th month post-relapse, and I am feeling cautiously optimistic. I’ve blogged about coping with setbacks before. I’ve thought about what’s different this year. I’m stronger for one. I have done a lot of work on my core and whenever I think I might slip, I haul out my sheet of exercises and giv’er.
I’m also very fortunate to work with a trainer who understands my fear of popping the joint when I start lifting heavier weights. Her eagle eye and focus on my form means we have been pushing upwards more slowly than might be considered usual. No matter; it works for me. I also found another form of movement — swimming — to complement the lifting, and it has helped enormously in keeping me loose and relaxed. The one consistent thing is keeping myself open to new movement and practice while ratcheting back the fear. It’s not easy, but it’s working.

Sam’s left knee and what will it stop her doing?

So as readers of the blog know very well I’ve had very serious knee issues for years which came to a head last November. I’ve basically got severe cartilage degradation and a lot of knee pain. The joint isn’t that mobile. Often it’s stiff and sore. I meet the criteria for knee replacement but, in the surgeon’s words, I’m too young and way too active for that to be the best choice. I’m also fierce and determined and I’m doing a ton of physio.

I’ll never run again. I’m done. But there’s an expectation that I’ll be okay riding my bike. But thinking about it makes me tearfully nervous. Baby steps. I’m riding to work and running errands on my bike. I’m taking spin classes. I’ve gone from not being able to stand on the spin bikes to finding that easy and natural. I can put big gears on again. No pain.

So I’m going to be thoughtful and deliberate this year about spring bike training. I’m going to gradually increase my mileage. I’m not going to panic about being out of cardio shape. My first long ride is more likely to be 40 km than 80. No hammering and sprinting right away. Instead, I’m going to enjoy the spring days and week by week put more miles in on the bike. I’m going to keep doing physio.

My physiotherapist reminded me last night that my knee might never be pain free again. Some pain is going to be my new normal. What we’re hoping for is that I can take on an expanded range of activity. For me, the things I care about are long bike rides and dog hikes. It’s a long road ahead but I’m getting there. I’m looking forward to warm summer days outside on my bike.

fitness · martial arts · training

On the Other Hand: Christine’s Plans Go Awry

In my last February post,  I had great plans for how I was going to advance my Taekwondo training in the next month. I was working hard on my patterns and I had a 15-minute a day plan. The emphasis here is on ‘had.’

 

I did 4 days of great practice, Eui Am really came together and the first part of Juche was starting to seem feasible. Then this happened.

The author's right arm in a white plaster cast. There is a tile floor in the background.
Not getting your first cast until age 45 (and after 9 years of TKD) is a victory of sorts, right?

 

On Tuesday February 27th, I took three TKD classes in a row.  In the middle of the third class, while evading someone during a sparring  drill, my foot stuck on something on the floor and I fell backward and broke one of the bones in my wrist.

 

My right wrist. I’m right handed.

 

I had the above cast for a few days until I saw a specialist and now I have a brace until April 16 (at least).

 

I am not supposed to lift anything heavy with my right hand, and I am not allowed to drive. Those things are inconvenient but given that I work from home and I can use voice dictation, they are not a crisis.

 

I’m also not supposed to rotate my wrist which makes it a challenge to open cans, use a key to get into my house, and it prevents me from fully practicing my patterns. I can do the stances and left handed arm movements but nothing with my right arm at all.

The author's right arm in a black cloth brace with lacing up the inner side. There is an orange wall and white window frame in the background. She is giving a thumbs up.
The brace is a bit more badass.

And the fact that I am supposed to take care not to lose my balance* means that I cannot do  the complicated jumps in my patterns. It also means that many of my other kinds of TKD practice are off limits, too. Kicks, footwork, punches, drills, all out of the question.

Needless to say, that put a cramp in my plans for 15 minutes a day.

 

It’s annoying and frustrating but I am trying to focus on the things I *can* do instead of the things I can’t.

 

So, for the last few weeks, I have been focusing on exercises for my legs and my abs. And the narrowing of my activity choices is actually making it a bit easier to do that work.

 

Often, when exercising, I find myself wondering if I should be doing some other exercise instead. Having fewer options right now limits that type of thinking so I can just do what I’m doing instead of overthinking it.

 

I’m still going to TKD but instead of practicing myself, I do some exercises and then I help other students to figure out their patterns. Going through the mental exercise of explaining movements I can’t currently demonstrate has been interesting to say the least.

 

I recently read the following tweet and felt oddly inspired by it. I am hoping that my willingness to focus on what I can do will help me be a ‘fitter’ version of myself by the time this brace comes off. (Yes, I know the context is different but I’ll take inspiration where I can.) I am adapting to this temporary change the best way I know how. 

I’ll let you know how it works out. KIYA!

A screen capture of a tweet from Alex Flis that reads "That's the thing people get confused a lot about evolution. Survival of the fittest is a very misleading statement. Nature doesn't care if you're the smartest or the toughest, it cares how quickly you are to adapt to a changing environment."
Yes, I know my injury has nothing to do with survival per se but I liked this reminder about the importance of adapting to change.

 

I would like to note that I realize that being able to approach this recovery period with this attitude is a mark of my privilege.  My livelihood isn’t threatened by this. My family life isn’t greatly altered. I have health insurance so there is no huge financial impact. I am not suggesting that anyone else who gets injured *must* approach their recovery period in the same way, I am only writing about my own circumstances.

And, I fully recognize that this temporary injury is not at all comparable to a disability and I hope I avoided implying that it was. I do not intend to be ableist but, as a non-disabled person in our ableist society, I realize that I run that risk (and that my ‘intentions’ are largely irrelevant.)  I am prepared to change any inadvertently offensive language I have used in this post, please just let me know.

 

*This is to prevent a fall.  The small break in my radius will currently heal without surgery but, if I were to fall on it, an operation would be inevitable.

equality · martial arts · training

The Limits of Self-Defense Training

I have been in several conversations about the nature of self-defense training in the past few months and as a result I have been puzzling about how to address women’s real needs when it comes to self-defense.

(Please note: I have not included any self-defense photos in this post so I could avoid potential triggers for people. There is a video from 1933 posted at the end but the still image is staged so it seems unlikely to be a trigger. Proceed with caution.)

With my second degree black belt in Taekwondo I feel pretty confident about my ability to defend myself in a fight. I have a fair amount of self-defense training and I’m a pretty skilled kicker and puncher. If someone outright attacked me, I could likely deal with it.

The problem is, of course, that for most women, the ‘stranger in a dark alley’ is the dangerous scenario they are least likely to encounter. We’re much more likely to have to deal with someone we know or sort-of-know in a situation that goes from normal to needing-a-defense-strategy all of a sudden.

If my life was in actual danger, I know I could act.  If the situation was unclear? I’m not sure that my instincts would be sharp enough. I fear that my social conditioning to ‘be nice’ would override my instincts, especially if it was someone I know. And I would be reluctant to cause them any real harm until I was sure they meant to hurt me, and then it might be too late to use what I know.

The author, a white woman in your mid-forties with dark blonde hair, is wearing a martial arts uniform and holding a sign that says 'the push for equality takes many hands #WhyIMarch' She is wearing glasses. The background is grey cloth.
I included this because I am in my dobok and because I think the push for equality – in this case, equality in personal safety – will take a lot of us working together. Yes, I often smirk in selfies.

I know that the big picture solution involves the social change all of us fit feminists are working toward but what’s the solution for while that change is in development?

How do we help women deal with the people who take advantage of the fact that we are trained to be ‘nice’ and agreeable? How do we get them past the fear of hurting someone they know but who is willing to hurt them?

It’s a huge issue, I realize that. In thinking about it, though, I have been tying together bits and pieces of my experiences and conversations with experts so I can start working on at least a piece of the problem.

 

A few years before I started Taekwondo my friends and I took this one time only self-defense class offered by a local martial arts school (not my current one). I learned lots of great moves and I enjoyed practicing them on people in full body armor. I felt like something was missing though.

 

The instructors gave us good skills but there was little or no mention of when and how to tap into our instincts. And the instructor did not seem to understand that as women in their thirties and forties we couldn’t necessarily follow the same rules for walking down the street safely as as he could as an advanced black belt male in his 50s. Basically, the class was great but limited. The instructor was missing the cultural and social context of when and how most women would need to use these skills.

 

The author, a white woman in her mid forties, wearing sunglasses and a red tshirt that reads 'patriarchy got me drove' Grey siding is visible in the background.
My local women’s centre was selling these great shirts this past summer. I think ‘patriarchy got me drove’ sums up the basic issue here.

One of my TKD instructors is working on this issue already. She has lots of great self defense skills to teach but it is really hard to teach women to defend themselves in the sort of situation they’re most likely to encounter. It gets into that grey area where you need to teach skills beyond the physical.

After all, how do you learn to defend yourself against someone whose nose you don’t want to break or against someone that you’re going to see again (and probably not in a court of law)?

Last week I was talking to a friend of mine who teaches women’s self-defense and again she was concerned with that same gap. Her practice is able to address it a little more directly but since every student has individual things to overcome, it’s tricky to address in a wholesale way.

 

This is one of those situations where physical fitness and training will help. After all, both of those things bring confidence and give you physical leverage. However, the problem is broader than being confident and physically capable.

 

How do we teach women to further develop their instincts, to trust them and to act on them?

 

How do we find ways for women to defend themselves when causing physical harm will have additional social repercussions? (I know that defending yourself should be your first priority and the repercussions should be your last concern but that social conditioning to be a ‘good girl’ will get in the way.)

 

How do we help other women (and ourselves) to recognize that a threat is a threat, no matter who it comes from? That the harm that comes from someone we know is as bad as harm from a stranger? To recognize that we should be allowed to protect ourselves,  no matter who is hurting us?

 

It’s hard enough to learn that it is okay to say no.  And to understand, on a fundamental level, that we have the right not to be harmed in anyway. How do we help women to reinforce that no without creating further danger for them?

 

How do we address the fundamental changes in thinking (and in social  indoctrination) that all of this requires?

 

I know that the answer lies in the social change we talked about. I know that it is really men that need the lesson about doing no harm and taking responsibility for their actions. And there are tons of changes above needed above and beyond that.

But those are long-term changes and waiting for things to get better is not a viable option.

I want women to be equipped to deal with the things they have to face now. I want them to have the skills they need and the confidence to use them. I know a lot of people are working on it, I just want to be part of that working group, too.

 

 

 

The embedded video below shows a Women’s Self-Defence Tutorial from 1933. It is in black and white and features May Whitley demonstrating jiu-jitsu.

martial arts

Focused Patterns Practice: Christine’s Daily Challenge

I need a lot of practice in order to get my patterns ready for my next belt test. I have a plan for how to get myself in gear and learn those patterns inside and out.

In the second half of each Taekwon-do year, my instructors host a competition class. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for students to sharpen their competition skills – to improve their precision in their patterns and their scoring in their sparring. Even though I take the competition classes each year, I am not particularly inclined to compete. Instead, I attend so I can sharpen my patterns through focused practice and so I can hop in the ring with other female students and give them a decent sparring partner.

Competition classes are starting this Tuesday and it is a huge wake-up call for me. If those classes are on the agenda, it means that June is not that far away. I am still hoping to test for my 3rd degree black belt in June* but I am seriously stalled on my patterns.

I have three patterns that I have to be proficient in for my test.  I have been taught two of the three** so far but I still don’t quite have them down. I get stuck at certain parts, the movements don’t flow easily, it doesn’t feel like I *own* them yet.  They aren’t totally out of reach or anything drastic, they  are just a bit tricky. Really, my issues with the these two patterns just come down to a lack of focused practice.

That’s not to say that I have not been practicing at all but I have not being doing the sort of practice that I know I need to do to be ready for my test. I know what it feels like when I am building the connections in my brain that will let me do my patterns with ease and I have not been doing that specific type of work. There are lots of good reasons why I haven’t but it is definitely time for me to switch gears and bring my focus to that type of learning.

That’s why I have decided to let you know about my need to do this type of practice, since knowing that you are paying attention will help me stay one track. 

Starting today, I will do AT LEAST 15 minutes of focused patterns practice a day until March 31.                                           

A pile of white sheets of paper, the top sheet is a chart on graph paper with the dates across the top and a list of patterns down the side.
My tracker for my patterns practice and other preparations in Februrary/March.

Some days I will be doing Eui-Am (I almost have this one ready), others I will be doing Juche (this one’s trickier), and on other days,  I will be practicing my earlier patterns so they will be ready for when I need them.

How does all of this relate to the competition class? Well, for starters, those classes create a sense of urgency – moving my practice from ‘something I should get to’ to ‘something I must prioritize.’ 

Plus, now I have opportunity to bring those developing patterns to competition class and focus intently on improving them. We get lots of assistance in our regular classes but there is something extra that we all bring to those competition classes that will really help me zero in on my challenges.

I will write about my progress (in addition to other things) in my two blog posts in March so you can know if I keep my promise.

Let’s see what that 15 minutes a day will bring.

 

KIYA!

 

PS – Are you in need of focused practice on anything at the moment? Want to join me?

 

*My tests are at my instructors’ discretion. The plan is for me to test in June but if they deem that I am not ready, I won’t be testing.
**I’ll be learning the third one in class over the next little while.

fitness · gear · martial arts

The Right Tools for the Job

Like everyone, sometimes I struggle to figure out whether the fitness item I want to buy is worth it. Will this item help me train to reach my goal or am I secretly hoping it will get me there by magic? Do I really need this thing or am I just trying to ‘buy’ fitness?

A rectangular yellow board and a black kickpad that is round on one end with a long handle. Both say 'Benza Sports' on them.
I get a kick out of both of these. Or maybe they get a kick out of me? Ha!

I have been on that fence for ages about two items for Taekwon-do – a rebreakable board and a ‘clapper’ pad.* My husband bought me both for Christmas. I was thrilled to receive them but I still felt a little weird about it for some reason. So I did what I usually do when I am getting on my own nerves – I turned on voice dictation and essentially journaled aloud into google docs.

After a lot of rambling, I ended up with two questions for myself.

Did I want both of those things because they were ‘cool’ or because I would actually use them?

Did a part of me think that I didn’t ‘deserve’ those specialized tools?

 

The first question, I realized, was about me reminding myself to commit to structured and specific practice for my kicks and punches. I could get behind that.

The second question made me mad. Was it possible that I had that thought buried deep in my brain somewhere? Was I falling victim to that kind of annoying thinking? You know, the kind that tells you that you can buy nicer gear once you earn it by reaching some external standard?**

And I do think there was a bit of that going on but now I’m pretty sure I have eradicated it.

Because, here’s the thing, sometimes you need the right tools to get a job done.

Sure, you can use a butter knife as a screwdriver but it is not nearly as effective.

You can roll out a pie crust with a cold glass but it’s much easier if you use a rolling pin.

You can practice spinning hook kick in the living room with a pillow but you won’t be able to tell if you have hit your target correctly.

You can punch any sort of practice pad in your rec room but you won’t be confident that, when the time comes, the board will break.

I can practice that punch and kick all I want in class but I still need more work at home. My challenges with the ‘choreography’ of the spinning hook kick and the jumping punch mean I have to do a lot of solo practice. If I have the right tools, I can do safer, and much more effective practice at home.

So, it’s not matter of me just wanting something because it is cool. And I certainly don’t have to ‘earn’ the right to practice effectively. Even all the overly-socialized parts of my brain can accept that.

Instead, I can consider these tools a good investment.

By getting the right tools for the job, I am showing myself that honing these techniques is something I care about. I am creating a good mental space for the practice ahead.

KIYA!

Are there any specialized tools for your sport or activity that you hesitated to buy? Was ‘deserving’ them a factor for you?

Did you ever get them?

How did they work out?

*I don’t know what it is actually called but there it is in the photo above. It is actually two pads stitched together on the narrow ends. When you kick the wider part, the two pads collide and make a VERY satisfying noise.
**I’m not referring to things you set up as rewards for reaching certain goals. That’s entirely different.

fitness · gender policing · Guest Post · martial arts

The MMA Fighter and the Troll (Guest Post)

Once upon a time there was an Internet troll who thought that he had found some magical fairy dust called testosterone that would make him stronger, faster, and smarter than any woman in the world. So he thought he could just claim that he could beat any female MMA fighter out there who was in the same weight class as him. Luckily for us, some fine folks set up a match between him and Anna McCauley Dempster, an amateur mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter out of Oregon, to take place on January 6th.

Anna McCauley Dempster, a young blonde athletic-looking woman, throwing a knee with an elbow guarding her face across her body.
Anna McCauley Dempster

Now, while it seems obvious that this particular troll is just asking to get knocked out, as he attempts to channel the ghost of Andy Kaufman, much less extreme versions of the claim he makes are pretty common. Lots of people do think male fighters in general have an advantage over female fighters, even correcting for things like relative size. Weirdo internet trolls aside, most people with any kind of experience doing fight training, in mixed gender contexts, will know that there are women who are better fighters than many men they train with. But that doesn’t mean the playing field is level.

On a personal level, I’m as committed to both feminism and martial arts as anyone I know, but hesitate at the thought of genderless divisions. I suppose I do agree with the view that male fighters have an advantage, but I hesitate to say that it’s just a simple physiological fact (e.g. more testosterone). I know, I know. Testosterone is advantageous, and that’s why it’s used as a performance-enhancing substance. Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) is banned by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).  But it can’t be the whole story. After all, “Bigfoot” Silva, who has acromegaly, naturally has testosterone levels that are well below average, but has had to fight for many years without TRT.

One thing I think we can’t rule out, though, to explain differences in ability, is the role of gender socialization. Spend some time hanging out with kids, especially when they’re doing physical stuff, and take note over time of how differently little boys and little girls are treated. A lot of what we supposedly know about hardwired differences between male and female brains can plausibly be chalked up to what Cordelia Fine has called neurosexism. Could something like that be going on with physical ability? Well before puberty and many of the more significant developmental differences, lots of people don’t seem to expect little girls to be as physically capable as little boys, much less encourage them to be physical in the same ways. It seems weird to think that kind of thing wouldn’t affect them as they get older, even if they’re active athletes.

But I think that if we want to encourage people to be athletic, and to take part in athletic competitions, we need, as a sporting society, to sort out just what we think the important differences are to make competition fair. Not everyone’s gender identity fits neatly into a binary, and many trans and intersex athletes have been subjected to a great deal of discrimination. It just doesn’t seem as though gender segregation along a binary is doing the trick these days, and maybe it’s time to consider whether there are any viable alternatives.

Still. In the meantime, while we figure out the deeper issues behind gender and sport, you can tide yourselves over by watching Anna McCauley Dempster beat up a troll.

martial arts · motivation

Taking a Quick Glance Back

A couple of weeks ago, I was helping* with a belt testing for Taekwon-do and watching the other students tests for belts ranging from yellow stripe to black stripe was really encouraging for me.

I spend entirely too much time with my eye on my next belt, on learning the next thing. It is all too easy to forget how much I have already learned, how far I have come. I mean, obviously, I know that I have more skills than I once did but since those skills are part of my knowledge base now, I end up focusing a bit too much on the skills I don’t yet have.

It’s a natural development of a graduated learning system. You are always aware of what you don’t know because that is what is between you and your next belt. I can always tell you what I need to know for my next test and how much of it I have already learned.

The author wearing her white martial arts uniform with a yellow belt around her waist. She is smiling, standing slightly sideways, with her left hand held flat at thigh height.
This is me, right after my yellow belt test in 2010. I’m proud of my past self but I have LOTS of advice for her.

It’s a sensible approach for skill development but it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. Even though I generally feel challenged rather than discouraged, I am still very aware of the areas in which I fall short. And I know that can be the case with any sort of goal, particularly fitness-related ones.

That’s why the belt test was so encouraging for me. In the course of a single afternoon, I was able to see my skill development at each level mirrored by the students who were testing. I could see what I must have looked liked at my first test – determined, yet uncertain, with my skills just beginning to grow. I could remember myself at each level, what I felt like I knew then, and how I must have been better than I realized.

Seeing how the students’ dexterity, strength, power, and speed increased at each belt level was an excellent reminder and a boost to my ego. I have followed that path. I am still on it. My skills are improving all the time and I’m sure that senior students can note that when they are watching me. That’s a good thought to keep tucked away for when I get frustrated with myself as I practice for that next test.

It’s good for me to have that test in my future – it helps to focus my practice and it gives me something to work toward.  However, I can’t just keep my eyes on that prize, I have to take some time to glance back at my yellow stripe self, my green belt self, my red belt self and celebrate how much I have accomplished already.

I’m grateful that assisting at the belt test gave me such a direct opportunity to see how I have refined my skills over time. I’m not sure that I would have thought to do it otherwise.

Do you often take time to note how far you have come from where you started?

If so, what do you do?

*To be clear, I was *not* testing these students, I am not qualified to do that yet. I was just helping to keep the test running smoothly and assisting where needed.