Wednesday, September 30, 2015

This I Believe

And just like that, September is already over. The first six weeks comes to an end on Friday - meaning, I have been grading like a madwoman - and I'm still trying to figure out how that happened. Have I taught them anything worthwhile? Have I made any sort of impact on them? I can't answer that question, but I do know that my kids have been so much better behaved than last year. One of my fellow teachers told me it's because I'm a better teacher, and while I'm not entirely sure about that, at least I don't have the "first year teacher" label on me anymore. I still have my knuckleheads, of course, but I have far fewer headaches, and even my class of 34 knows when to get to work. Some days it takes longer than others, but hey, they are 14 and 15.

That being said, please be ready for this year's first round of Student Quotes to appear soon. I have collected a whole slew of student quotes, and though they are better behaved, they are still absolutely hilarious. And they make getting out of bed every day worthwhile. 

Anyway, one of the assignments I am currently (frantically) grading is what is called This I Believe. It's actually an international organization that combines writing with, well, beliefs. I love this essay because, while it's not in our 26-line expository format, it allows students to tell me about themselves. And let's be honest, who doesn't love writing about herself? My students got the chance to tell me about a belief they have, that leads to a bigger, more universal message. Some of them are funny, others of them are heartbreaking, but all of them have come straight from the heart. It's crazy to me how open some of them have been with this assignment, but I love it. I love hearing other people's stories, and this is certainly one way to do that.

I told my students that if I was going to ask them to write an essay, that I was going to do it too. It took me a little while at first, and I actually had to work backward. I went through several failed attempts before coming to that conclusion. I picked out my bigger "message," and then I thought of a story that would help me to convey that message. From there, I picked a belief, and I am sure none of you will be surprised by what I share with you guys. I hope to this weekend go through some of my students' essays, and share bits and pieces with you guys, but for now, I'll share with you all what I wrote.

I believe in running in the rain.

Running long distances where you can’t even tell where the rain stops and the sweat begins. So that your socks get that soggy feel to them. So that your neighbors look at you like you’re crazy, because it’s 6:30 on a Saturday morning and you’re on your second loop. And the rain is still coming down in sheets.

Let me explain. I’m a runner, and for a large portion of the population, that statement elicits shudders. But I’m not like a large portion of the population. I enjoy stepping outside with my shins taped up, my pink headphones lodged into my ears, and my neon Lululemon headband keeping any stray hairs in place, to run long distances. I enjoy pushing my body to the limit, and I enjoy the ‘me’ time. No text messages, no emails, and no Instagram to stop me in my tracks. It’s a time for me to think, to process, to clear my mind, to relieve stress. And a time to keep my eyes peeled for any new bumps in the road, both literally and figuratively.

Ideal running conditions are temperatures in the 40s or 50s, low humidity, clear skies, and maybe even a tailwind. If you’re lucky. Getting up before the sun on a day typically reserved for catching up on lost sleep isn’t easy even when the weather gods are on your side. Add in rain clouds and a headwind, and your pillow and blanket are suddenly holding you hostage. But those are the days when it’s most important to get out of bed and run through the streets of Wilchester West. Past the sleepy houses. Under the dusty streetlamps that only work half the time. Speeding up a little bit when you pass the neighborhood peacock on the back street.

How am I ever going to get better at running if the only time I do it is when the conditions outside are to my liking? I’ve been on countless runs where my legs were telling me to turn around and go back home. That I could try again the next day, or the day after that. And before you know it, it’s been raining for a week straight and you’re falling behind in your training plan.

It’s easy to make excuses. It’s easy to give up and take the road more traveled. It’s easy to stay in bed and promise myself that I’ll run later. What’s not easy is pushing through on my toughest days. Getting out of bed when it’s cold and windy. Getting out of my comfort zone so that I can get better, faster, and stronger. Doing the thing that other people might consider ‘crazy’.

I believe in running in the rain. Continuing to run when things aren’t going my way. Working to overcome obstacles, understanding that discomfort is when change happens. Pushing myself to be the best that I can be. Getting outside my comfort zone. Because that’s where the magic happens.

At first I was nervous about sharing my writing with my students. Which is silly, because they know I'm not perfect. I tell them that every day. Besides, they're 14 and 15, and they love hearing about me as much as I love hearing about them. And don't I share my writing with you guys all the time? Yeah. So, here I am. Putting my first, completely unedited draft out here for you guys to read. Because I fully believe in getting outside my comfort zone. Accepting a job at Bellaire was absolutely getting outside my comfort zone. And it was hard at first. Really hard, as you guys fully know. But it was also the best decision I ever could have made. And on that note, I'm signing off. I've got some essays to grade. I hope you have enjoyed a wonderful Hump Day!

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