Today I think I gained a glimpse into the life of a child for whom the work of school is a never-ending battle. A few weeks ago I decided I was going to learn to run. That “learning to run” had turned to possibly completing a half marathon with my sister and a friend.

Today the three of us met to do a “long run”. Before today, I have done one other long run and my friend was by my side the whole way. Today was different. I quickly fell behind and soon could see neither of them as they progressed ahead.

We were traveling a route with which I was unfamiliar and therefore not able to gain a pace for myself. I ended up hurting, both physically and emotionally very soon into our run.

At the low point of the day, about three miles in, my shin throbbing in pain, tears streaming down my face as a result of self-deprecating thoughts, I had to pause. I now knew what it MAY be like for many of our children in school.

I was able to see others moving ahead, but didn’t have the skills to progress at the same pace. I was moving, but it was difficult and there were many barriers to my success. I thought of quitting…seemed the easiest road to take. I cried, because the task before me just seemed more than I could ever accomplish.

How many of our students are just trying to gain the courage, stamina, and fortitude to just cross the finish line every day? How do we help them understand that we all progress at our own pace and this is a race worthy of their effort? How do we convince them that though they are behind there is hope for a finish?

I have had the fortune to be able to work hard and achieve much with focused effort. This running thing isn’t something I can read more about to gain stamina, nor watch someone else to learn technique. It is highly individual and personal. I had to realize that I was running my race, and my race alone.

With the structure of our learning systems, our children aren’t running their own races. They are a product of the proverbial testing treadmill by which there is no variance in the path to success. You pass or you don’t.

Tonight, as I reflect on the day, I can’t say I’m super excited about running again in the next few days…but I HAVE to do it. The desire to not fail, to just finish is there. I’m petrified of being last. I can’t imagine being a child and carrying this same emotional baggage each and every day, much less not having the maturity to articulate why and how the emotions are connected.

I’ll finish my race….maybe. Either way it will be my choice. How will we begin to change the race for those who fight just to come to the starting line each and every day??