My oldest son got a text from one of his friends towards the end of last week asking him if he wanted to run in the 500 Festival Mini Marathon that was held this past weekend. He is in pretty good physical condition, and he is 14 years old…so why not? He, almost without thinking, decided to run. He and his friend went out and ran all 13.1 miles in just a tick over 2 hours and 20 minutes.
We were talking later that day, and I asked him if he would be interested in running another half marathon at some point. He said that in the future he thinks he would like to run another one because he could have done better if he would have known ahead of time and trained for it. (Really? You think…?) I then asked if he ever wanted to try a full marathon at some point in his life. He said “Maybe…I mean I did run half of that without any training…I think I could do a full marathon.” I explained that while he may have run half of a marathon in mileage, mentally, in a full marathon, 20 miles is halfway.
While I have run one marathon myself and am beginning to train again for a second, I am in no way a marathon expert, but many of those who have run full marathons in the past will tell you the same, 20 miles is half way. Something happens at 20 miles…that last 6.2 miles seems almost as difficult, and sometimes more difficult, as the 20 miles that came before it. My son, who is a very analytical thinker, did not seem to understand my logic (Is it even possible for a 14 year old boy to understand the logic of their parents?) and moved on in the conversation.
Later that day, I was talking to my wife about this conversation, and she likened the “20 miles is halfway” concept to the school year. While December marks the official halfway point, the busyness of the last couple months can make them seem just as long as eight months prior.
In the last 6 miles of a marathon, you must remain focused on running the race. The last 6 miles are difficult and cannot be overlooked, even when mentally you begin shifting your mind to the end. If you shift your focus to the finish line, rather than running the race that got you this far, you will fall apart with only a few miles left. Much can be said along the same lines for the school year. If we just look at the finish line, while we still have time left to run, and forget about the work that got us there, things can begin to unravel.
The end of the year brings the anticipation of a few months from the “race” of the job. We start thinking about vacations and other summer plans, and this can pose some challenges as our colleges and students are often thinking the same things, but we cannot lose sight of finishing strong. We must continue to focus on the relationships that built a respectful culture in our classroom, the engaging lessons that got students excited about our content, and the passion that gives us energy each day. If we stop focusing on running the race that got us to this point, things can fall apart at what is supposed to be a time of celebration. If we do not stay focused, then our students will more than likely lose focus as well, and they need a model of what seeing something through to the end with stamina and poise looks like.
So as we end the year and wrap up our few last days try to do the following:
- learn one new thing about each of your students before they head to summer break
- take a chance on a new idea you might have that will get your students excited about your content
- or share a lesson with students that will show them why you love what you teach.
Whatever it may be, in the next few days, do not forget about what got you here…keep your focus on what has made this year successful and send your students off to summer with some great memories about your class.
With a few weeks left keep running the race and finish strong.
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!