Check your ego. Know your limits.
It has been almost 8 weeks since this journey began, and I must say that the “6-8 week recovery time” model is fairly accurate. I would say I was right there, feeling pretty much back to “normal” at 6 weeks. I’ve been stalling on writing this because I don’t actually feel that I have anything that exciting to say, but I suppose my lack of exciting updates IS an exciting update in itself. I’ve also had a few people ask me about my recovery, so here we are!
I hit a wall about 4 weeks into recovery, feeling like I needed to do SOMETHING different. The bodyweight exercises were working, and I continued to do them to some extent, but after spending the past 3 months working out at home, it began to get old, even though I am on the recovery train. So I started walking on the treadmill. This was inspired by my amazing husband who is preparing to go to US Navy Boot Camp in a month and has been putting in the WORK. Though this post is not about him, I must say, he certainly inspired me to put in the work myself.
The treadmill idea was also born out of the fact that I am vigorously rewatching old seasons of Survivor, and admittedly had a tiny bit of guilt about spending my time (and brain cells) in this way. I feel less guilty about watching it if I can at least be walking and exercising while doing so. (Maybe I’m not killing quite as many brain cells this way? Who knows?) The goal at first was to just move the entire 42 minute episode. I was walking around a 23 minute mile pace-- not too fast. Since then I have not only powered through all of Season 13: Cook Islands and Season 15: China, but I have also increased my speed to a sub-20 mile, which is no joke to maintain for 42 minutes! I’ve been super mindful about how it feels and being aware of not overdoing it. There have been a few walks that I’ve had to decrease my speed because it wasn’t feeling quite right. This also significantly increased my step count. Between walking Comet twice a day and walking on the treadmill, I was easily hovering around the 12,000 step per day mark.
Of course I don’t know this for sure, but I really believe that walking on the treadmill helped build the strength in my hip flexor back up very quickly. It’s gotten a lot better very fast, which is fantastic news.
On June 19th (7 weeks post-op) I decided to reactivate my gym membership. I had held off due to Covid concerns, but thankfully, the coach is allowing me to workout in-between classes so I pretty much have the space to myself or am sharing it with one other person. (thanks, Becca!) Anyways, this has been a really wonderful step for me. Not only is it allowing me to build my arm/back/core strength back up, but it is allowing me to gain confidence as I slowly increase my weight bearing capacity.
My first day back I did some deadlifts-- while there was once a time in my life when I knocked out a 300 lb PR and repped 225 lbs like it was nothing, I decided to start light-- at 55 lbs and only worked up to 75 lbs that day. Everything felt fine, but baby steps, you know?
Since going back to the gym, I’ve done power cleans at 65 lbs, gotten my deadlift up to 95 lbs, and done other exercises like med ball slams, kettlebell swings, and lots and lots of Assault Bike. I’ve been very mindful about easing my way into it and am not even thinking about what I used to be able to do. Honestly, I have somehow managed to have a really healthy attitude through all of this and am truly just happy to be lifting weights at 7 weeks post-op.
I had my virtual follow-up appointment with my doctor last week as well, and while they didn’t take x-rays (obviously, it was virtual), he did say everything seems fine from what I told him. I asked several questions about more things I can and cannot do and was again told his previous advice of “no restrictions” and a new one, that I really enjoyed, “Live your life.” This means a “yes” to chiropractic adjustments (if I choose), water skiing, deep squatting, running, and pretty much any other activity I can think of. His exact words were, “I don’t give my patients any restrictions post-op, and with the implant you have, you really don’t have to worry.”
So there you have it. I’m planning on taking on water skiing, skydiving, and marathon running this year. After all, no restrictions!
I did have to check myself today on two exercises and was reminded of my current limitations. In today’s workout there were “RDL” or “Romanian Deadlifts” programmed. An RDL is basically a deadlift performed with straighter legs, which isolates the hamstrings more than a regular deadlift. I thought I could do these at 65 lbs. I did one rep and it didn’t feel quite right. But I figured I would try a few more. About 4 reps in I decided to cut it and dropped down to 55 lbs. It was still a little shaky, but I focused on engaging my hamstrings and glutes and ended up staying there. While it wasn’t a huge deal to drop 10 lbs, it was certainly a reminder that there are still some discrepancies between what I think I can do and where my level actually is.
Another exercise, “90-90 hip rotation” was also programmed. I didn’t think I would be able to do this one, but I wanted to give it a try before totally giving up on it. You start with both legs at 90 degrees and slowly open the back one and then the front one, in an effort to open up and stretch the hip flexors. I tried one, it didn’t feel good, so I substituted a different exercise instead.
The point is, that while this recovery has been relatively smooth, there have been plenty of times when I have had to check my ego. Lowering weights, changing exercises, slowing down my speed, cutting something short-- it’s all part of the healing process, and it does require the right mindset. I’m by no means comparing myself to what I was doing at any point before my surgery, and to be honest, I don’t think I ever will. In many ways, this surgery was a turning point in my health, fitness, and life and I am happy to use this as my new starting point moving forward.
As I wrap this up, I think this will be one of my last updates, short of any major milestones in fitness or over time. I’m thankful to have had this amazing procedure by a wonderful doctor. I’m thankful to finally be pain free. I’m thankful for the smooth recovery so far. I’m thankful to be back in the gym, and I’m thankful for my brand new hip. (Which still needs a name… any ideas??)
I remember teaching a particularly challenging group of kids. After a tough class, one of my students told me I was racist. I don’t remember the specific context of his remarks, but I do remember my response. “If I were racist, would I teach at this school?” Really. That’s what I said. That was really my response to this child. A response that invalidated his feelings. A response to a child who figured out that the school was built to teach him that his life isn’t as important as his White peers. “I can’t be racist. I teach at a mostly Black school.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that kids say things they don’t always understand. Maybe in that moment I wasn’t being racist, but just being his teacher. But maybe, just maybe, I was. Maybe he wasn’t only referring to me as racist, but was upset over his social studies lesson earlier in the day. Maybe he was upset that all of the images in his textbook were of White kids, except for the one, “token Black.” I don’t know. I’m not here to recall the specific events from a specific incident.
But then it got me thinking.
Have I used the “color-blind” approach when teaching my kids? Have I ignored their backgrounds, silenced their voices, or made judgements on them or their families based on the color of their skin? Maybe I have.
I remember my first year of teaching. I had a 3rd grade general music class that pushed me to my limits as a first year teacher. To be fair, I only saw them once a week, and sometimes even less than that. As a teacher, something I pride myself on is my ability to learn my students' names. In this class however, I didn’t know most of their names. Today, I couldn’t tell you a single child’s name from that room. They were names that weren’t common. Names that I had never seen before. And let me tell you, they knew I didn’t know their names. I didn’t take the time to learn the one thing that was most important to them because it was different from the names I was used to. Back then I would have told you I didn’t learn them because “I just couldn’t remember them for some reason.” Now I will tell you that it just wasn’t at the top of my priority list. It would have required too much effort. And they knew it.
I remember my second year of teaching at a new school. I had done a unit on film music that culminated in us watching a Charlie Chaplin silent film, “The Kid.” The only Black person in the entire film is a little Black boy who delivers flowers to the rich White people. During that short scene, one of my students looked at me and said, “Of course the Black person is the servant for the White people.” To which I replied, “Yeah, I know. Unfortunately that’s how it was back then.”
“Back then.” That’s how it was back then. What a terrible response. I am certain that she saw right through that white-washed answer. This was 2017. After Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and Philando Castille. But this was music class-- we don’t TALK about race here! We don’t TALK about WHY the little boy in the movie was depicted that way. We don’t talk about WHY there aren’t ANY OTHER Black actors or actresses in that movie or ANY OTHER silent film I showed them. After all, if I were racist, would I teach in this school!? I still think back to that terrible response and what it taught that particular student in that moment.
I remember when a fellow teacher was called racist in an email from an unhappy parent. She was distraught. I came to her defense, “How does this student struggling in class make you a racist?” and “I can’t believe they would say that!” and "Why do parents always have to assume we are racist?" I didn’t think that maybe, just maybe, there was a deeper reason for that parent’s reaction. I didn’t challenge her on it. I didn’t encourage her to examine why that accusation was made. I just comforted her. Like a good White person should.
I remember teaching at my second school and struggling to connect with my middle school students for various reasons. The school was predominantly Black and Latinx. It was 2016. Donald Trump had just been elected President. It felt like the air had been sucked out of the school. I didn’t talk about it with them. I didn’t mention it. I felt their sadness, fear, and worry, but I didn’t take that moment to connect with them on how they were feeling.
I ended up switching schools that year for reasons that go beyond this blog post, but when I think back to my short six months there, the only kids I remember are the White kids. My fondest memories of teaching there are with the White kids. Why is that?
I remember my first year of teaching when a fellow teacher was having trouble with another student and asked me to sit in on their parent meeting. I hadn’t really had issues with this particular student, but still taught the class, so I joined her. I remember feeling intimidated by his Black parents. I was afraid of them, not because I was a first year teacher and still learning the ropes, but because their Blackness intimidated me. I remember sitting across the table from them and not being totally honest-- that I personally hadn’t experienced any issues with their son. I failed him that day.
I remember trying to find examples of Black and Brown actors, dancers, and singers to show my kids and struggling to do so. We watched short examples of opera and I could only find one Black opera singer. A tenor. When I asked my kids what their favorite voice part was, an overwhelming majority said, “The one with the Black singer.”
They notice. I noticed that they noticed. Now I notice too.
I remember showing my middle school students the dance documentary, First Position, and how engaged they were anytime the Black dancer, Michaela DePrince, came on the screen. I remember seeing their eyes light up when they saw her overcome the odds and become a professional ballerina. But let’s be clear-- she overcame the odds because she is Black.
I remember moving to Georgia and my friends and family members asking me if I was going to look for a job at a “better school.” I didn’t explain that I was actually leaving a great school with great kids. I let them go on thinking that I was at a “bad school.” I let them continue to have a negative perception of my Black kids.
But at the same time, I remember instances where I stood up for my kids.
I remember standing up for our best 7th grade trumpet player when they tried to take him out of an after-school activity because he talked “too much.” (He was a 7th grade boy… they all talk too much.)
I remember standing up for our best 5th grade trumpet player who wasn’t going to be invited to a special program because she was a “behavior problem.”
I remember when I stopped yelling at kids for shouting, “OOOOH” after their friend did something they thought was awesome or for dancing to a song they like when I turned on the music.
I remember how engaged my kids were when we listened to the trap remix of The Nutcracker.
I remember how excited they were to write their own raps.
I remember when I let my middle school students use their cell phones for backing tracks and every single kid was using their phone in a productive way.
I remember when I told three of my girls that their rap won the Little Kids Rock Songwriting contest. (They cried, by the way.)
I remember when I learned just how much I still have to learn.
These are just the stories I remember. The moments in time when my Whiteness got in the way that have stuck in my brain. I have come so far, and yet I have so far to go. What if I had learned my student’s names in that general music class? What if I had discussed race in the silent film? What if I had talked to my student about why he thought I was racist? What if I had challenged my colleague on that email? What if I had talked to my students about how they were feeling after Trump won? These are just the moments I remember. How many moments have I let pass me by?
And I am supposed to be one of the “good” ones.
The point is, we can ALL do better. We MUST do better.
My Kids Don't Need Saved.
When I was in undergrad I had this vision of going to an “inner-city” school and “making a difference.” After all, these inner-city schools need good teachers and the kids need someone who will help them-- guide them-- save them. I was taught this “savior complex” throughout my education and throughout my life. I was fed stories of white teachers going into urban schools and rescuing their students from the streets. I watched movies like Dangerous Minds where I learned that black kids are their own worst enemies, and the only way to a happy life was out of the so-called “ghetto.” I watched shows like Boy Meets World in which Mr. Feeny makes comments about people escaping to the suburbs for better schools. I was going to fix this problem. I was going to save the Black kids from themselves! I was going to make a difference!
But now I see a larger picture. I see how my thinking was flawed, and I see how not a single one of my kids needs “saved.” My kids, at a school with a high percentage of Black students, at a school with a high free and reduced lunch rate, at a Title One school, need what any other kid on this earth needs: love, respect, and to be heard.
My kids are no different than your kids or any other kids in this country, or around the world.
I have had a unique experience as a teacher. I grew up in schools in western PA that had a population of white students that was over 90%. I did my student teaching in Ithaca, New York. I taught in Palm Beach County, FL, New Haven CT, and Snellville, GA and now am getting ready for my time as an educator in Northern Virginia. As I search for a new school I find myself using the terms “good school” and “bad school” quite often. The more I say it, the more I cringe. After all, what defines a “good” or “bad” school? Many would say that my previous schools could be considered “bad” schools based on demographics alone. After doing quite a bit of reflecting on this, I decided that it doesn’t come down to “good” or “bad,” rather “well-funded” and “under-funded.”
When I look back at what I consider to be the “good” schools I have taught at, versus the “bad” schools, I realize it comes down to one thing: funding. The “good” schools have money to purchase new instruments. The “bad” schools do not. The”good” schools have the means to provide every student with a device for online learning. The “bad” schools do not. Why is it that the “bad” schools are almost always the Black schools?
How many times were negative images of these “bad” Black schools planted in your brain? They are dangerous. The kids are rude. The parents don’t care. We are educated to both STAY AWAY and that we can FIX this mess by bringing our holy White selves into these buildings and rescue the kids who go there.
I challenge higher-ed institutions to change this. I challenge them to rewrite their narratives. How is it possible that in SIX YEARS of higher-ed, my ONLY experience with Black culture was my undergrad institution’s annual Gospel Fest? (and truthfully, Gospel Fest wasn’t even taken seriously, it was just an excuse for the entire music school to drink… but I digress…) The single Black-male professor who is on staff at my university’s music school was seen in a negative light. He was seen as a Black “victim.” I never got to know him. I only ever complained about him. I didn’t understand his attitude or the chip on his shoulder.
Now I do.
We use the terms “inner-city,” “urban,” and “rough” to mean BLACK. ‘I teach at an inner-city school’ really means ‘I teach at a Black school.’ ‘I teach at a rough school’ really means ‘I teach at a Black school.’
I am going to be changing my language to match the reality. “I teach at an under-funded school.” It is not a good school or bad school issue, nor has it ever been that way.
Ever wonder why the teacher turn-over rate in these so-called “urban” (aka Black) school districts is so high? Ever ask yourself why the average class size in NYC Public Schools is 26.4 students, while the average class size of the “best” school district in the country (Naperville CUSD 203, IL) is 22 students. (For all of my non-educator friends, that 4 student difference is like night and day.)
“But every American has an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY to succeed! After all, we all live in the same country!”
I call BS.
My kids are amazing, beautiful, kind, talented humans. They love learning. They want to please me. They want to make their families proud. They want to succeed just like every other kid in every other school. And yet, I have taught at many schools that people consider, “bad.” One of my online assignments was to create a “bullseye rap.” We use a target and descriptive words to help guide them to create their own song. I didn’t assign them a topic-- they got to choose. One of my students, Jada, chose to write about herself. She is in kindergarten. She is Black. These are her, original, lyrics:
“J-A-D-A that’s how you spell my name. J-A-D-A that’s how you spell my name. J-A-D-A that’s how you spell my name. It’s Jada. It’s Jada.
I’m kind, sweet, and honest. I love my skin. I love my hair. I love my eyes. I’m strong, brave. It’s Jada. It’s Jada.
J-A-D-A that’s how you spell my name. J-A-D-A that’s how you spell my name. It’s Jada. It’s Jada.”
The moment I realized I didn’t need to “save” my kids was the moment we really began to connect. They are intuitive. They know what your intentions are.
At the end of the day, it is up to us, as educators, to decide what message we are going to send them.
Hi! I am Nicole Guimaraes. I'm a K-2 music teacher in Falls Church City, VA. I've got an amazing husband and a fabulous dog who keep me busy. If I'm not teaching or walking my dog, you can probably find me at the gym!