Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Finding Inspiration in Real Life... No Need for a Text Book or Program

It's been quite some time since my last post.  I've been busy.  So busy in fact that I haven't had the time (or motivation) to stop and find inspiration for writing.  All writers suffer from writer's block one time or another.  I am no exception.

Finally, inspiration hit me square in the face today while at school.  Today is Marathon Monday, one of the biggest days annually in sports worldwide.  It was the 118th running of The Boston Marathon.

When my fifth graders came in this morning, I told them that we were going to watch a little bit of the live stream from the race.  Immediately, hands raised in the air. One student asked about the bombing from last year.  Another wanted to know if it could happen again.  A few worried faces stared back at me.  As adults, we know that a terrible tragedy, such as the Boston Marathon bombing, is unlikely to occur twice in the exact same place.  Children, even older children, do not necessarily understand this.   My fifth graders, who are 10 and 11 years-old, knew many details about the bombing from last year's race, including that the two men who committed the crime were either in jail or dead.  They still worried.  We discussed how things can happen at anytime, tragedies can't be predicted, and how we all have to move on and live life to our fullest potentials each day despite the fact that tragedy can't be predicted.

My students watch as Meb Keflezighi becomes the first
American man to win The Boston Marathon since 1983.
Then, I turned on the live stream.  We watched wheel chair racers finish and cry tears of joy, age groupers line up and pile together in the huge corrals, and the elite runners race to the finish in groups of four to five.  At first, I was having my students work on math practice while watching.  Then, I invited them to put their work to the side and just watch the race. What happened next brought me sheer joy!

My students started excitedly cheering along with the crowds in Boston.  They were asking questions about running, and inquiring if they could someday do something like this.  Then, they watched the female and male winners cross the finish lines.  Cheers erupted in the classroom.  Suddenly, students sitting at laptops started shouting out statistics, race paces, and other facts that I didn't even know.  I realized many of them started looking up and seeking out information on the internet without my prompting- this, my friends, is every teacher's dream!

A few hours after the race ended, while on my lunch break, I read some online articles recapping the day in Boston.  One struck me in particular:  Runner can’t make it to the Boston Marathon finish line, so others carry him to the end, by Mark Berman of the Washington Post.  The short article detailed how one runner collapsed less than a quarter mile to the finish line.  Instead of passing him by to enjoy their own glorious moment at the finish, two runners lifted him up.  Then, two more joined in.  They started
Image from Mark Berman's article
walking him to the finish line so he could complete The Boston Marathon.  Then, they started jogging. All five crossed the finish line together.  I teared up at my desk reading this article.  I knew I had to share it with my fifth graders.  As teachers, we often fabricate stories of compassion and empathy to share with students, but we do not often get to show real, unprompted examples of it.

So,  the last 20 minutes of the school day was devoted to this article.  Thank you to those four runners for selflessly helping out another runner.  I hope you know you've inspired many children to do the same one day.  The conversation we had at the end of the day was so rich and so real.  No lesson plan or text book could have ever brought this about.

The lessons sports teach us can't be duplicated elsewhere.  Thank you to all who bravely ran Boston yesterday.  You inspired not only this teacher, but also her students, and so many others.

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