A wise soul once told me to keep my eye on the small victories in teaching–those “smile file” moments that warm your heart and solidify that “yes, *this* is why I’m a teacher” feeling. In spite of the repeated 5:30 a.m. call of the iPhone Harp alarm, the frustrations of lessons gone awry, and the gallons of iced coffee consumed, these small victories keep me going.
In October 2009, my colleagues invited me to come to Franklin Park for the JQUS cross-country team’s last practice of the season. As a second-year teacher, I hadn’t yet considered taking on any extracurricular activities beyond the scope of my calculus, pre-calculus, ESL, and advisory classes, but I still kept up my running as a stress reliever for all my grading and lesson planning. At the time, the team was comprised of 9th-11th grade boys (the lone girl had quit by the time October rolled around), so I paired up with a self-identified “slow” one to run the Franklin Park course before the team gathered for a pizza party at a coach’s house nearby. I immediately loved being a part of the energetic environment and a shared love of running with fellow teachers and students. I didn’t realize then that I’d caught the coaching bug and would continue coaching to this day. I also didn’t realize a few of the gawky 9th graders there that day would become the core of the JQUS Running Club over the next few years.
Two of the coaches left JQUS the next year, and the remaining coach asked me to join the team. We changed the focus from trying to get other schools to let us join their cross-country dual meets to asking our school to fund a few local road races for our students. We applied for a grant from Jordan Fundamentals and received $5000 for race registrations, shirts, and equipment. More and more students began to join, including classmates of those first 9th graders. We signed them up for races such as the Mayor’s Cup 5K, the Superhero 5K, the Battle of Bunker Hill 8K, and the BAA 10K. Though many students dropped out of the Running Club, a dedicated group flourished. They ran together in rain and heat, pushing each other through hill repeats and on longer river runs. One of those students started in fall 2010, and he went from 10 minute miles to earning age group prizes in local 5Ks. Looking back, I should have predicted his success based on his tireless work ethic in my math class, with the IB Diploma Programme, and his other extracurricular activities.
This student became the class of 2012 valedictorian and ended up going to Boston College–a lofty achievement accomplished by very few students before him. Before he graduated, he mentioned that he’d like to run the Boston Marathon someday.
That someday is now.
His fundraising page for the Boston College Campus School popped up in my news feed today. I’ve seen many of these fundraising pages from Cambridge Running Club teammates and runner friends from Virginia–lots of whom have years of running experience and multitudes of races under their belts. It’s so amazing to see this student, who ran his first 5K a little over two years ago, ready to take on the daunting challenge of this historic course on his way to the “right on Hereford, left on Boylston” turn to the finish.
I can’t wait to give him a high-five as he runs past mile 24 on Marathon Monday.