In April this year I ran my first marathon. I am not a natural runner and I made hard work of it. Nonetheless, it felt great to tick that box.

Last Sunday I ran 6 kilometres and it felt the same as when I ran 6 kilometres the Sunday before that. Terrible.

I did not actually mean to run the marathon. I wanted to run the half marathon but that race was full – predictably so given that it was only 8 weeks before the race. I entered the marathon with little time to train and my eyes on the t-shirt. I did not think I’d be able to finish it.

A teaching friend of mine had also left it too late to enter the half and decided to enter the marathon. Fortunately for me, Julia was a physical education teacher with an actual plan.

As we got further into our training schedule and our weekend runs were getting longer, I was feeling more and more comfortable. I had never been fitter. I was actually enjoying running and had every intention of running more races. Julia talked about different maintenance programmes that we could put ourselves on while we figured out what we might want to run next.

We were a bit sore after the race but no injuries. The plan was to have a week off to recuperate and then put ourselves on a maintenance programme to keep up the momentum and fitness that we had built up over the last 8 weeks. I never started that programme and I think I might have run half a dozen times over the next 3 months. So here I am, starting from scratch. Again.

The frustration from losing all momentum and having to start over again is not lost on me as an educator. The effort that goes into accreditation, a curriculum review, or establishing new philosophies or programmes around character development, service learning, technology integration, etc, etc could be compared to training for a marathon. And the feelings of satisfaction from the hard work leading to a set of recommendations or outcomes are similar to those felt crossing a finish line.

It feels good to tick a box but my marathon experience has me thinking what is the point of ticking a box if nothing follows from the ticking of it? Or possibly even more frustrating, ticking a box and then having to do the same hard work to tick the same box with essentially the same tick a couple of years later?

Securing accreditation, reviewing curriculum or developing a philosophy or programme are all complicated tasks that require a plan to complete. But completing these tasks and patting ourselves on the back without considering how the fruits of our labour will be developed and maintained defeats the purpose of completing these tasks – school improvement.

Our schools are complex systems that must be adaptive to take the opportunities and meet the challenges that constantly present themselves in our ever-changing world. Our schools must plan to be adaptive and any effort to improve our schools must focus on the continual development and maintenance of those efforts.

An Adaptive School very rarely finds itself starting from scratch – as I am now after a ticking a box in April.