No matter how seasoned a runner, the term “hitting the wall” brings uneasiness to a runner. Hitting the wall typically refers to the 20 mile mark of a marathon when all of the body’s reserves have been converted and used as energy, and the runner has nothing left but pure gut and discipline to finish the race. Between my father-in-law, my husband, and myself, we have completed 41 marathons (okay, my father-in-law did 39 of those), and I know what’s it like to hit the wall. At mile 20 of my one and only marathon, things got ugly, but a quick snack and finding someone to finish with made the last 6.2 miles almost enjoyable.
Marathons are a lot like the school year, and this is the time of year when students and teachers hit the wall. We are not to spring break where we are counting down the last 6 weeks like the last 6 miles of a marathon. We are blistered, out of energy, out of motivation, wondering how we will make the last few weeks. As a result, students and teachers are getting sick (I was at the doctor just yesterday and have many students out), careless, and sometimes downright ugly. During my race a well meaning husband on a bike was shouting out words of encouragement to his wife at mile 20 and she shouted something not repeatable in the blog world back. Fortunately, there are ways to get past the wall and enjoy the remainder of the race, or the year in our case.
Marathoners put some kind of nutrition into their bodies at this point. We too should be taking care of ourselves this time of year. As exhaustion kicks in, listen to your body. Eat healthy food (we will forget that I had 30 cent wings at Brick House tonight) and get enough rest. Exercise is not only good for your body but for your soul as it provides stress relief. I am 100 times better in the classroom because I can run off my stress at the end of the day.
Marathoners often run with one or two others for pacing and camaraderie. Students and teachers should surround themselves with people who are going to help them push through and give their best. Encourage your children to be around those who breathe life into them as opposed to draining energy from them. Parents and teachers should make extra efforts to encourage and speak life into kids.
Marathoners keep the end in mind. Students and teachers must also remember the end. In order to end successfully, you must take successful steps along the way. If a student wants to finish with all As, he or she must keep this in mind and remain focused during these weeks. I am continually reminding my students, that the work in the middle determines the grade at the end but how much is learned and gained from the class.
Anything a little out of the ordinary can prove to be a good distraction when hitting the wall. Buy colored pens, a new notebook, put notes in lunches, or anything that might just give them a little lift during the school day. I try to do some creative lessons this time of year. I currently have letters parents have written their students on my desk which will be opened on Thursday when we read a scene of Hamlet where a father gives her older son advice. My students are all abuzz wondering what these are about. A little different goes a long way this time of year.
So good luck to all of my fellow racers in the marathon of a school year. We are at mile 20 and will be crossing the finish line soon. Persevere – this is where our character shows. I’ll see you all at the post race party!
How can you encourage your student this time of year?