Saturday, September 06, 2008

Musings From the Finish Line

This morning Kent and I ran in a local 5K race benefiting the animal shelter. Our dogs came along and ran with us. It was a nice, low-keyed race for my first one. My goal from the beginning was to simply run the whole way (no walking) and to finish. Well, that I accomplished. I came in last, but attained my personal goals. Ironically, I ended up getting a medal anyway, as there were only three women in my age division. I took this as a gift from the running gods as a memento of my day.

Looking back, I am amazed at my journey from couch potato to runner. My best friend, Ginny started running earlier this year. We have always enjoyed the same things, but thought this would be the one thing I could never share with her. Kent runs as well, but I looked on it as a “guy thing”. Both Ginny and Kent encouraged me, challenged me and even pushed me to at least entertain the idea that I could be a runner. In early July, I ran out of excuses and decided to give running a try.

When I started, I couldn’t run to my mailbox. I remember the sense of accomplishment at each milestone; 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, 1 mile, 2 miles and finally 5K. I would call Ginny just to tell her I had reached the next goal.

Signing up for my first race was just the motivation I needed to get up every morning and train. I was hopeful that losing a little weight would be a natural byproduct of taking this healthy step forward, but as of today—I haven’t been THAT lucky. I found inspiration through reading (of course, my precursor to anything) “No Need for Speed” by John Bingham and “Slow, Fat, Triathlete” by Jayne Williams. Taking advantage of the tools for training, searching for inspiration and the encouragement I received enabled me to attempt something I never thought I could.

As I crossed the finish line today with cheers from those who finished before me, I thought of the students in my classroom who never have the opportunity to feel the victory of “stepping across the finish line” academically. They attempt to maneuver their way through school dodging obstacle after obstacle in their path. They don’t know how to “train” or they lack the motivation to do so. They don’t seem to have anyone in their lives to encourage them, push them or believe in them. Yet, we expect them to perform on the same level as those students fortunate enough to not only have one, but all of those affirmations in their lives.

Is it true students have to “want” to learn for us to reach them, OR can their reluctance to learn be overcome by not only offering the “tools” to “train” but engaging instruction as to how to us them? Do they merely need someone to believe in them, encourage them and push them? I realize this seems oversimplified, but is it? Nothing to do with becoming a runner has been easy. To this day, I don’t necessary like it, but today I feel like a runner. Perhaps not in an accomplished athlete’s eye, but in my own and in those who care about me. By the same token, reluctant students may feel the same—nothing about school is easy, but hopefully through dedicated teachers, encouraging parents and “training” they can feel the satisfaction crossing over the finish line can bring.


Ali said...

Ahhh, Marsha. This is something very close to my heart.

I watch children in my street who don't have households which function well enough to enable them to get to school each day. Households where clean clothes are lower on the list of priorities than food on the table. Households where food on the table is a lower priority than the parents addictions.

School is not spoken about in a positive way in these households. The school yard is an impossible place for the children to fit into.

These children stand uncertainly and self-consciously at the starting line of education with no idea of where the finishing line is and the rewards it may bring and no-one to give them the personal organisation and discipline they need to move forward toward the finish line.

Ali - who congratulates you on becoming a fully fledged runner!

Anonymous said...


First: Congratulations! On both the race and on all the pre-work that led up to this momentous occasion. You are clearly demonstrating that pattern breaking is totally achievable - even at our age! ;-)

Your analogy to children/students got me to thinking - as did the comment left by Ali. My 25- and 23- year olds were, I believe, raised in an encouraging, loving and supportive environment. We held out expectations for them. There were rocky times through the teenage years (typical, I suppose) and both of the girls successfully completed high school.

And yet...

Transition to adulthood has been - in my view - a little underwhelming. And it's not entirely a result of losing their mother, because some of the patterns I see now were evident before their mother was diagnosed and became ill.

The eldest has most of the courses needed for a degree, but is not complete and does not show signs of wanting to. She probably only went to university because she thought we wanted her too.

The younger never even considered post secondary education (although she is talking about it a bit now) and has bounced around from bottom end job to bottom end job for about six years now.

I can't fathom what either of them "want" out of life. They both seem content to live paycheque to paycheque and spend the majority of their money on socializing and popular culture.

I've read that we do our kids a dis-service by advocating the models of the past (get a good education, get a good career, save for retirement) although I'm not sure why (even in the hectic pace of ever changing modern life) and yet what my kids are doing doesn't make a lot of sense to me either.

It's probably not fair of me, but I mention from time to time that when their mother and I were their age we were already married and had them as toddlers. The contrast in the level of responsibility taken on at that age between them and us is somewhat startling.

I wish I knew the answers, but your post has provoked some thought that has allowed me to draw these conclusions for my own situation.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately they do have to "want" it.

In all my years of teaching I was never able to get a child to do anything unless there was desire there. Even if the desire was just money for grades bribe of a parent or simply to fit in with the other kids or to please me. There has to be a motivation.

When I taught at risk/drop out at the high school level, it finally came home to me that many children who come from the bottom rungs of society don't see a future awaiting them that a high school diploma will save them from. High school is hard work and why bother when you will only continue to work at the grocery or Target or whatever it was they were already doing in terms of employment.

We talk at that about achieving but they see the reality. Jobs without benefits or room to grow as a person. The impossibility of owning a home. The sky-rocketing costs of higher education. And they give up before even trying.

Great piece. Made me think again.

Friski said...

My dear, I am so very proud of you!


Sari said...

Great job Marsha!!! You must be so proud!