I got home this weekend after a twenty-day road trip and was really looking forward to as much laziness as I could pack into the 28 hours I had in my house. I was reminded that I had agreed to take two 13 year-old boys out for a training run. These two are grandkids of a friend of ours and were excited about the possibility of running with a marathoner. I had my doubts about them getting much out of the experience and even more doubts about me getting out FOR the experience. However, I am so very glad I did!
While we talked about the mechanics of running and worked on pace on the track and strength on the hills, our time together was a great learning (or relearning) experience for me. Keegan and Carter shared the perspective of young teenagers and did so in an unvarnished fashion that is the hallmark of youth. It also reminded me of the importance of listening to the stories our student tell. They spoke of the disappointment of not seeing the floor in a basketball game, the pressure of being members of a team in a sport where lots rode on their performance, and of the need for adults to see beyond the current moment as far as the potential for kids.
That really got me thinking about the work we do with kids in school today. Do we look at the potential or the current reality? Can we find a way to incorporate both? The twin boys are both slight but were quick to let me know that their Dad is a strong 6’ 4” man. In thinking about their love for sports they recognized that, while they are waiting for the physical growth to arrive, it’s important to hone their skills and work on refining their mental approach. They are works in progress. Shouldn’t this be how we look at school? Why is it that we think all 14-year olds can do grade 9 math? Won’t some hit their stride earlier, while others may hit it later? What’s our end goal in the school life of a student? Can we accept that some of our students will hit their academic maturity along the same lines as kids hit their physical maturity? What changes will we need to embrace if the end goal is success in those areas that educators deem to be necessary in order to make the transition to further school or the world of work?
Ultimately the morning of running did more than exercise my tired legs. It kick-started my tired brain and reminded me once again that the solutions are often there right in front of us. Listen to your students, believe in their potential, and provide them the guidance to overcome the hurdles that are presented.
Thanks Carter and Keegan. I’m looking forward to our next run together. I’ll just plan my nap a little better!