More to Learn

My mom asked me to lead the virtual team bonding session for our gymnast tomorrow, so I decided to put together a gymnastics trivia game. I got really carried away brainstorming the categories and questions and figuring out the scoring system and even backup questions for extra rounds if we have more time. I was so caught up in planning the activity I didn’t even notice that I “missed” one of my classes.

Luckily this was a class that’s pre-recorded, so even though I try to watch the videos during normal class time to help keep to a schedule, I can technically choose to watch the lectures whenever. I guess that’s one of the nice perks of online learning – you don’t have to stop in the middle of a great brainstorm to go get to another class.

I was honestly surprised that creating this trivia game had me so captivated. I realized that even for a topic like gymnastics, which I consider myself to know a lot about, there is still so much I don’t know and it was really interesting to learn some new facts on the topic. I love how there is always more to learn. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there is more to be learned until you go to teach it to someone else.

Lockdown Passion Project

Happy International Dance Day! Can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with the official release of my passion project from the last four weeks of lockdown!

Typically at this time of year, our team gymnast would just be finishing up their season and as a part of our end of year showcase, I always choreograph fun group routines for all of the girls to perform. This year was already going to be tricky with me being in New Zealand, but I had choreographed the entire routine, written out everything so the coaches back in Atlanta could teach the choreography, plus recorded videos of myself doing some of the harder to explain parts. But of course right after I figured everything out is when the pandemic came into play, so who knows if that routine will ever get performed…

But I still wanted to try and do an end of year group routine even if it had to be virtual. So I choreographed this routine and taught it to the gymnast via pre-recorded videos and Zoom calls and then had to up my iMovie skills to figure out how to mash it all together! It was a fun process, so much so that I’m trying to make another one to be released next month, and this time with more gymnastics and sign language!

Now here is the full video of JSG Virtual Group Routine: “Dancing With Myself.”

 

The Evolution of an Idea

As a follow up to last night, where I choose to read old blog posts instead of writing a long new post, it seemed only right to reflect today on what I read.

One of the posts I revisited I call “The Gymnastics Theory.” I wrote this post back in 2014 but the concept of how the future of education could be influenced by the world of competitive gymnastics is something I frequently come back to. It was interesting to read this post that outlined some of my original thoughts on the topic, and because it’s a topic that comes up often for me I thought it would be good to reflect on what’s changed since my 2014 version of this theory.

Since 2014 I’ve definitely built on the theory quite a bit. In particular, a big difference is simply in my terminology. In this post from 2014, I talk about learning being “skill-based” and I’ve now realized this was my simplified way of saying that gymnastics is an example of an already existing, successful model of systemic competency-based learning. In fact, the main reason The Gymnastics Theory continues to come up for me is because I’ve found that it’s a helpful example when trying to explain what competency-based learning could look like. At a few conferences now, I’ve been given feedback that even for someone with practically no understanding of gymnastics, (ie. you maybe watch it in the Olympics and that’s about it) this was an easy to understand example for contextualizing competency-based learning for people just learning about this concept.

Furthermore, I’ve done a lot more thought into the division of groups in gymnastics versus traditional schools. In my old post, I simply mention how gymnastics levels are not determined by age and how practice groups may not be the same as competition groups because by practicing with levels above and below you there are more opportunities for peer-peer mentorship and leadership. All of these facts are still very true and relevant, but now I’ve taken this a bit deeper and started to imagine how the entire structure of gymnastics levels and transitioning between levels works and how it’s comparable with education.

I don’t want to go too in-depth into this right now, maybe I’ll finally get around to making a more official written update on my entire theory sometime soon… but for now, I want to focus big picture on what’s changed not all the specifics of my thinking. The summarized idea though is that gymnastics actually has two somewhat parallel tracks that gymnast can take depending on their needs/what they hope to get out of the sport, and between the two tracks there are three different types of levels designed to more efficiently test skill proficiency at different points in a gymnast career. I’ve done a lot of imagining about what it might look like if education followed a similar structure.

Finally, I think the biggest change in my thinking in my commentary on school not being a competition. Now that I’ve had 6 more years being in school and gone through the college process, I totally disagree with 2014 Anya. School is a competition. It might not be advertised that way, and we might even be explicitly told sometimes to not think of it that way, but at the end of the day, we’re always competing. This semester even, my Marketing 101 professor spent the first 10 minutes of class emphasizing how we are always competing for grades, jobs, promotions, etc so we might as well get in that mindset now and be ready to fight for the win. People are always being compared to others because everyone wants the best candidates for their team. School might not have formal competition events for assessment purposes, but it’s definitely a competitive atmosphere. I don’t think that has to be a bad thing, personally, I find competitions to sometimes be a great motivator, but it has to be healthy competition in order to be motivating and that’s something that school isn’t always great about creating the environment for. Again, I’ve done a lot more thinking in the realm of what “healthy school competition” looks like, but my thoughts are not fully formed yet so that’s as much as I’ll say for now.

Overall, I’m very amused by how much has grown and changed with my thinking since this original idea came about in 2014. These two worlds of gymnastics and education are both very close to me and it’s always fun to make connections between the two. Maybe re-reading this old post is the prompt I’ve been waiting for to finally attempt writing out all of my thoughts on the topic – and figure out a more articulate way to write them, because I’m sure this post is kind of funky just due to the fact that I’ve been thinking about this concept for so long that it’s getting all jumbled trying to come out of my head now.

(I drafted about three more paragraphs on my “summarized” version of the levels structure description alone before realizing that was way too much for this post… so trust me when I say there is lot’s more. I mean I didn’t even mention the scoring system.)

Brain Training

Today was a busy day. I taught my weekly dance class (with a dance that was way too ambitious…), had a virtual coaches meeting, recorded 5 different videos of choreography stuff, compiled all the pictures I could find of my family in a tree, and finally started editing an essay I’ve been procrastinating working on.

Today was probably one of the most productive days I’ve had since being in lockdown mode. It feels pretty good to have gotten so much done, but now I feel like my mind is totally checked out. I suppose people can only be so productive in one day and then eventually your brain just needs time to not think. I also think like most muscles, with practice the brain can be trained to handle longer periods of strain before needing rest.

These past few weeks I haven’t really been training my brain much and I’m noticing now the evidence of this lack of brainpower practice at least in terms of stamina. I’ve still been doing some brain work over the break, even if it wasn’t school-related, but I definitely feel like I’ve gone a lot of days doing less mentally stimulating work than I normally would be even over the summer.

I’m curious how this will translate into starting classes again next week. I was telling a friend today that it’s kind of nerve-racking the closer we get to school starting again. The break was so long it almost feels like we were in summer vacation, and yet we’re going back with the expectation that we still know everything we learned a month ago and that we are ready to start turning in assignments in the first week. It’s like we’re going from driving 0 -100 mph at the drop of a hat.

I hope it won’t feel that way once we get started, and I know professors are in the same boat of feeling this weirdness of having such a long break then coming back to school. It’s just very uncharted territory and I’m curious how our heads are going to deal with it all. Hopefully, I’ve kept my brain in-shape enough to get by because I’m not exactly imagining a smooth transition.

Mindset of a Historian

One of the more random projects I’ve found myself involved with while in isolation is finally organizing old gym videos. Jump Start is almost 9 years old now, so we have a significant number of old routines at this point. I’m trying to locate videos of all of these old routines and sort them based on level, song, and choreography (some times we may re-use identical routines or sometimes we just use old music but change choreography). This way in the future we have more options of old routines to recycle and also just more ideas for song selections.

This has been an annoyingly difficult process though, especially when there are videos that I know exist but I just can’t seem to find them anywhere between my computer, my mom’s Google photos, or old flash drives. For example, I somehow have old videos that are on my YouTube channel and yet I can’t find the original versions of these videos in order to save them to the Google folder we’re creating. Then on top of the videos I know exist but can’t find, I also know of at least a dozen routines girls competed, and yet I have no idea if we have videos of them. So I’m searching for something that might not even exist.

And I’m spending hours searching… How do you know when enough is enough? How do you know when you’ve searched every possible option? How do you convince yourself that one more hour of searching won’t make the difference?

I even went as far as manually going through our records of all team kids we’ve ever had and emailing past families to see if they had old videos they’d be willing to share with us. I’m seriously doubting I’ll get any responses on that email, but I had to at least try in order to start to feel like I’ve explored all my options.

This must be what historians feel like – always searching through the past without knowing if anything will actually be found or if there even is anything left to be found. I’m glad I don’t plan on becoming a historian.

Team Bonding in the Classroom

Today was team bonding day for our gym Zoom call. I’m glad I was even able to make it, especially since I forgot to turn on the outlet that charges my phone last night so my alarm didn’t go off this morning…

I found it funny how you can be on a team with the same people for years, and yet somehow still not know basic information about them. Things like where people were born, when they started the sport, how many siblings they have, favorite x,y,z, etc.

Today’s team bonding session was all about discussing the answers to questions like this and it was really fun. I liked getting to learn more about the kids I coach from a whole-child perspective. You never know when it could come in handy to know someone’s favorite animal is a narwal and they were born in Texas having started gymnastics as soon as they could walk. The more you know about a person, the more you can empathize with them and the better you can work with them.

During the normal season, we hardly do any team bonding and it’s something we’ve always regretted, so I truly appreciate this time for allowing us to start implementing this new norm of taking time to value who we are as individuals and a team beyond just gymnastics.

It’s also made me wonder, what if classrooms considered themselves a team? I mean when you think about it, a class is a group of people working together for a year to hone their skills in order to overcome various challenges related to their discipline. That’s pretty similar to how I’d define any sports team…

And yet, in a classroom we often don’t act like a team. There isn’t typically an emphasis on group norms, bonding, and support for each other’s learning and progress. Even in gymnastics where we compete against our teammates, we still talk about the importance of working together in practice, cheering each other on during competition, and doing non-judged group activities to help encourage unification and love for the sport.

I guess it’s assumed in a class that kids already know each other because they’ve been in school together for years, but even when you’ve known people vaguely for years, each new arrangement of people creates different team dynamics.

What if classes spent more time during the year intentionally bonding as a class and thinking about how they will support each others’ growth throughout the year? The more you know about our classmates, the more we can empathize with them and the better we can work with them – and this goes for teachers too. Some teachers are great about getting to know there students, but what if this was even more intentional at a cultural level for the entire school vs just the occasional teacher that everyone knows really takes an interest in learning about all the students? For example, what if the first week of class was all about “class bonding” and setting the norms for the year and thinking about how everyone can best support each other – teacher included?

I wonder how learning might improve if we took more time to know our “teammates” as whole people outside of just the subject material.

Craftsmanship Upgrade

I remember there came a time during Innovation Diploma where we had to all have a conversation about how our level of craftsmanship needed to raise. Our skills had further developed and we had gained more tools since the beginning of the program, so it was time to acknowledge that even “quick prototypes” now needed to have a higher standard of quality.

I was reminded of this conversation today when brainstorming gymnastics music for next year. I have been brainstorming and keeping lists of potential songs and imagining how I might edit the music and choreograph the routines. But then I realized, it’s been at least five years now since I started editing music (probably closer to seven even, but I’m not fully sure when I started), so it’s probably about time I step up my level of craftsmanship.

In the past, because editing music can take a decent bit of time, I usually waited to edit songs until after I got confirmation from others that the song might fit one of our gymnasts. However, I’m realizing now, I’ve gotten a lot better at editing music, so it doesn’t take as long to complete anymore; therefore, I should just go ahead and edit songs I think have potential because even if they don’t get used immediately, then we will have a larger database of future songs.

That’s the approach I decided to take today, so rather than continuing to brainstorm lists, I went ahead and started editing some songs. I finished two songs in one hour and I felt pretty good about that progress. This proved I was right in thinking that my skills have improved to the point where it’s time for a craftsmanship upgrade. So now instead of my “prototype” of new music ideas just consisting of a list of full-length songs I found, I can now provide lists of already edited music which will make it easier to visualize music-to-gymnast fit.

And as we also discussed in ID, once we become more proficient with one tool, it’s time to move on to learning new tools.

Therefore, the next step in my music editing development is gaining knowledge on additional music editing tools available to me. In the past 5-7 years, while I’ve gotten much more efficient at what I do, I believe there are a lot of features I’ve not yet discovered or attempted to utilize. For example, I know several kids would love to do a mash-up routine of several songs. I  typically deny these requests because I have a bias against gymnastics routines that are mash-ups since they often don’t have a logical story-telling flow to them. However, I also deny these requests because I don’t know enough about actually creating my own digital music to be able to make smooth transitions between different songs. So one of my new goals for the year is to learn more about creating my own digital music in order to experiment with creating a mash-up song that I actually would consider giving to one of our gymnasts.

Strengths in Action

How’d you see your strengths in action today? 

One of my strengths is individualization. It means I’m good at identifying the unique strengths in other people, which can be very helpful when creating teams in terms of matching people that will have complementing strengths.

For our team gymnasts, we have decided to start a big sib, little sib program (“Gym Families” as we’re calling it). It’s something we as coaches have discussed on several occasions, but we never had the right time to initially kick off the program. However, since the pandemic forced us online, we decided it was worth having a weekly “team bonding” video chat in addition to our training sessions just to check in with everyone and give them a place to stay connected as a team. Therefore, we thought it would be a great time to finally kick off the Gym Families program.

I was the one in charge of sorting out all of the groups – which I had been brainstorming since last summer… I went through lots of iterations of the groupings, but I feel pretty happy about the end lists. Early this morning we officially announced the groups, and while I know the girls will need a bit more explaining about why we are doing this, I think the kick-off was fairly successful!

Considering I had been planning this for so long, it was nice to finally see my brainwork come to life and nice to see my strength in action with the success of the pairings. It’s nice to feel useful while stuck inside with only so much productivity that can really happen.

Range Finder

For the last 10 minutes of our Wish For WASH meeting today, I encouraged our entire team to do a mini design thinking activity with one of the tools we used called “The Range Finder.” The purpose was for each of us to think about the timeline of different goals on our subteams; goals right in front of us, beyond the trees, and over the mountain. I thought with so much uncertainty and restructuring happening right now with the shift to virtual teaming, this tool would be a good way for us to check-in that everyone is on the same page with how we view our short term and long term goals.

The tool was so successful that I thought it would be good for me to do a personal Range Finder as well to consider what my goals are for while we’re on break from school (the three weeks still), once classes start again, and once we finish the semester.

Right in Front of Me:

  • Finish sorting through all previously uncategorized blog posts of mine.
  • Make final edits on our Wish For WASH design thinking in the sanitation sector research paper.
  • Edit 5 new gymnastics songs.
  • Have working drafts of the 3 assignments I’m able to get started on already.
  • Choreograph a new dance every week until our gymnast can get back into the gym.

Beyond the Trees:

  • Publish Issue 7 of Trailblazers.
  • Video edit Jump Start Gym’s first-ever virtual gymnastics group routine.
  • Host the virtual Design Jam Wish For WASH has tentatively started to plan.
  • Obviously, complete my school work…

Over the Mountains:

  • Explore whatever more of New Zealand I’m able to – Hobbit Town and the glow worm caves are specifically two things I’ve not gotten to do yet I really want to see.
  • Reconsider Trailblazers business model in order to be more sustainable as an organization.
  • Do more in-depth research into options for post-graduation (ie grad school or work first – and where)

Thoughts of the Day

I thought about everything I did today – which wasn’t much – and I’m still struggling to think of anything, in particular, to write about. Instead, I’ve decided to do this post as a series of little thoughts I had today that aren’t specifically connected with the hope that sometimes even just sharing little thoughts can spark larger discussions for others.

So here are my thoughts of the day:


I miss doing acro a lot right now. I’ve gone long periods of time without training in the past, but I think having so much time and so many fewer distractions has made me miss it more. Time to think and reflect while being great at times can also make little moments harder at other times.


I love the moment when old things become new again. My grandpa used to have a game on his computer called Snood and anytime we were with it we’d play it a ton. I’ve never seen or heard of the game anywhere else, but for some reason today I was thinking about it and decided to check if it had been turned into an app. I think I’ve checked on this before and was sad to discover it didn’t exist, but I guess now is finally the time because Snood finally exists as an app and that’s been really exciting today!


One of the random things I miss about home right now is the random stuff that I can count on to always be in the house. For example, I know that pretty much anytime I can count on being able to make a quesadilla, pasta, or cookies. We might run out of ingredients sometimes, but then those items are immediately purchased at the next grocery run. I think those random items that are always around is part of what makes a house a home; it’s the unique quirks inside the house that tell you more about who lives in it. My apartment doesn’t yet feel like a home. Maybe it’s because I’m so aware of the fact that it’s temporary. Or maybe it’s because I can’t bake a batch of cookies right at the moment I’m in the mood to…


Some of my friends and I had a Zoom call last night and we invited old teachers of ours to join in as well. We started talking about how clever Zoom is to be thinking long term by allowing educators to use Zoom for more than 40 minutes with the free plan because they want our generation to get familiar to Zoom so that by the time we’re in the workforce it becomes the go-to video conference platform. That’s when I realized, we are Generation Z, z as in Zoom… We are becoming Generation Zoom… With the amount this pandemic is impacting history, it honestly wouldn’t be surprising to me if this name stuck.


I tend to be a future thinker. I’m always imagining and planning for things that are months away. Usually, I find myself getting frustrated with how I’m always thinking about the future because it often makes me miss out on living in the present. However, right now, this mindset is somewhat nice because it’s a great distraction to imagine potential futures rather than focus on the present right now. I’ve already gone down a lot of rabbit holes with this combo of future thinking and so much time. I’ve gone so far as to create multiple spreadsheets sorting all of our invite program gymnasts by age, brainstorming summer training groups, developing a schedule with very specific details based on these groups, and even started debating music for specific kids which they likely won’t use for two seasons from now depending on how things go… I know most of this is pretty pointless because there are so many unknown variables to factor in. We don’t know when we will be back in the gym, we don’t know who of our girls might quit entirely, we don’t know who will be at what level physically, and we don’t know what other gyms might have to close and therefore how many potential new kids and coaches we might have tryout at our gym. But despite all of the unknowns, finding little things to brainstorm about can be really helpful to stay hopeful and engaged about an uncertain future.