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When You Aim High

Aim low, and you stay stagnant.

Aim high, and you go places.

Literally.

It’s a lesson I try to impart on my students.

I lead by example.

All of my life, I have set goals for myself.

I’m not sure where this drive to succeed began.  I suspect it came from a need to please my mom.

Nothing was ever quite good enough for her.  Not my hairstyle, and not my grades.

I wanted to please people from an early age.

Eventually, I transferred to who I wanted to please from her to myself.

And, perhaps, the employers I’ve worked for over the years, and now, even my students.

Personal goals, though.  They are things that others cannot do for you.

For a number of years, I’ve wanted to be a runner.  I’ve toyed with the idea and made feeble, inconsistent attempts to accomplish this goal.

Last year, I ran my first IRL 5k.  Well, I walked more of it than I ran, but I did go out, among other people, and complete the route.

I joined the Hogwarts Running Club last fall and began earning medals for various distances, but still, the running was inconsistent.

Then this year, I qualified for Perfect Prefect status because I’d signed up for all seven races this year.

That didn’t mean I’d completed them, though.

Life and Florida humidity got in the way.

Until a few weeks ago when I finished my Beachbody program, 22 Minute Hard Corps.

I got serious about running.

Every time I went out, I challenged myself to walk shorter intervals and run for longer ones.

Most days, I was able to do this.  Sometimes, I couldn’t…especially if I wasn’t feeling well.

I didn’t run every day, but I knew that was okay.

I got down to the One HRC House Marathon and had one medal left…the 21k…so many miles…13.1.

Oy vey.

I figured I’d have to do the run in three or four segments.

The first round, I did 5.5 miles.

I ran nearly five of those miles.  Huge day for me.

Then, the last couple of days, I toyed with my planned run for today.

I wanted to finish.  I didn’t want to have to use a third day.

There’s a saying I’ve clung to of late…”She believed she could, and so she did.”

I believed.

And then I did.

I got up early on a SATURDAY morning…a day that all teachers live for because we don’t need to answer to an alarm clock.  Especially empty nester teachers who are not slaves to playdates or soccer schedules.

It was chilly, y’all.

I dressed the part…fuzzy hair/ear band and long sleeves to start out with.

I warmed up for the first .47 miles…the distance from my house to the entrance to my neighborhood.

Then, I pumped my arms and began my slow jog…for I am not fast, you see.

I had a tentative route planned out.

That’s what “runners” do, I’ve learned.

I knew I wanted to get the part I loathed out of the way.  It’s a lonely stretch of road.  It feels endless.

I got that done with nary a bad feeling, turned the corner, and headed up to a main road.

As I ran the next segment, I began to reconsider my route.  Dare I go straight at the light and push on up said main road to the next light?

I dared.

It wasn’t bad.  My music and the cars speeding by distracted me.

I turned the corner, intent on my pre-planned, now-altererd route, and I ran past an alternative / technical school, headed for a left turn I intended to make.

But wait!  I considered my soon-to-be footsteps carefully.

Dare I not turn the next corner but go straight, on a path I’d never been on before?

I dared.

This was a road I’d traveled more times, via car, than I could count.  It was the road that Rooster’s elementary school was on.

Daily trips for drop offs and pick ups were my life for a few years.

The distance didn’t seem to bad.

Until I was on my feet running them.

I couldn’t see the traffic light that I knew was at the end.

The road was e-n-d-l-e-s-s.

I had to cross the street where the sidewalk ended; it started over on the other side.

I crossed back when that side’s walkway ended.

And then the sidewalk ended altogether, but I could see the light by then.

I turned the corner.

And then there was NO sidewalk at all…on a heavily-traveled, two-lane road.

Oy vey.

I ran on grass that was not smooth and even angled toward a ditch at times.

I did run in the street when traffic happened to be light.  It was still pretty early for a Saturday morning.

There was no sidewalk for that stretch, but I knew that at the corner, which I could finally see and which I would turn, I’d have my beautiful, safe pavement to run on again.

I headed in a new direction…toward home…downhill part of the way.

The angels sang.

But first, a detour into my friend’s neighborhood.  I knew that it was about a mile around, and I was keeping an eye on my Garmin fitness watch.

I had a goal…a certain distance I wanted to cover.

I ran, knowing the route like the back of my hand.

I left her neighborhood and crossed the street into my own.

I knew how far around I needed to go; I had a mile left.

Somehow, it was the hardest mile.

It was also the easiest.

I knew that I was very close to attaining something I’d been working hard for.

I wound up running FURTHER than my goal.

Y’all, I covered 9.03 miles this morning.  I ran a total of 8.56 miles STRAIGHT.

Once I had left the neighborhood and started running, I had not stopped until I’d gotten back to my house.

I wanted to cry.

I was finally able to finish coloring in all of the boxes on my tracker sheet.

I made the Mr. take pictures of me.

Because I’m extra like that.

He was full of compliments.  “You stink,” he said.  Ha!  Runner’s perfume, I wanted to say.

Besides that, obtaining goals is messy business sometimes.  It definitely isn’t always pretty, as evidenced by my hair.

Later, after he’d left to go to the grocery store (ladies, be jealous), I jumped in the shower and processed my morning.

I thought about goal setting…why I do it.

I thought about my students and the goals they’d recently reflected about.

I teach my kids so much more than reading and writing, you see.

I’d had a tough week at work…namely because someone had suggested that my standards might be too high.

I just didn’t know how to respond to that.  The statement confused me.

The goals I set for my classroom…for my lessons…are the same that the state of Florida sets.

Sometimes, the state’s goals are unreasonable…especially for some of the students I teach, given their learning impairments.

For the other students, the goals are fair, I think.

But here’s the thing.  I set goals in my classroom based on the potential I see in my kids.

I know what they can accomplish, even when they don’t know it themselves yet.

They think the road is supposed to be easy.  Maybe they’ve had things handed to them.  Maybe parents have stepped in when the going has gotten tough and tried to “help” by trying to make the way easier.  Ahem.

Maybe they’ve never had people who challenged them a little beyond what they were used to, so they don’t know how to stretch themselves.

Maybe they don’t have confidence because they’ve never failed, dusted themselves off, and tried again, only to finally meet those goals.

I can relate to every single one of these thoughts.  Except the one about a parent stepping in.  Mine never did that.  Ever.  I didn’t do it for my kids either.  I was not “that” parent.

As adults, we know that life isn’t all butterflies and, dare I say, happy Disney songs.

Today, as I ran, the road was not always paved.  I’ve got the stickers on my shoes to prove it.

It was bumpy, and I had to watch for things like cracks in the sidewalk, uneven slabs of concrete, and deep puddles of dirt that begged for the opportunity to twist my ankles.

I was also by myself, music excluded.

I knew, though, that I had a cheerleader waiting in the wings (my sweet Mr.)…lots of them actually, when you consider my HRC Facebook group.

My students are not alone.  They have me, cheering them on, giving them an encouraging word, challenging them to do more, making them re-do work that was shoddy the first time.

I do not want my students to settle for just meeting goals.

I want them to “do to the most,” be “extra,” and reach for higher.

The end game isn’t necessarily a medal, although I will say that I do like each one I get for completing a race.

The result should be progress from where one started to where one wound up at the end of the day.

When my students were creating new goals for the second nine weeks, one of them wouldn’t write down anything.

“I’m doing just fine the way I am,” he said.

My jaw dropped.

“Really?” I said.  “So, you don’t think there’s anything new you can learn…any way to improve yourself?”

“Nope,” he said.

How many of us feel the same way, I wonder?

Aim low, stay stagnant…or dare I say regress.

Aim high, and the sky is the limit.

I practice what I preach.  These are life lessons, not necessarily academic ones.

They’ll get it, eventually, and maybe I’ll get more letters like the one I found on my desk on Thursday from a student I taught last year.

Always give 110%.  Never lower your standards.  Always reach for more.  By doing so, you’ll get what you wanted plus a little more to boot.  That’s never a bad thing.

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