Ready, Set, Go: Reflections on Racing and Schooling by Rebecca Lyons

I don’t like running. I don’t like much exercise, to be honest. It’s hard. It leaves me sore. It makes me sweat a lot. Stuff blows in my face when I’m trying to enjoy the gentle Corpus breeze. So exercising is not something I look forward to.

But here’s the thing. Once I start doing it, I get into it. Once I make a habit of running, my legs start to feel different when I don’t run. Not that I’ve suddenly grown calves, but they literally begin to feel stretched, because they need to be used. My body starts to miss exercising, and soon (even if usually not soon enough), I put on my tennis shoes again.

So because I don’t always look forward to exercise, especially running, the idea of my Christian walk actually being a “race” has always brought me some anxiety. My life being like a race stresses me out because it isn’t a race I will win in my lifetime, and it isn’t a race I can win on my own. Now, while I’m obviously not a sports person—at all—I’m finding that sports analogies are really starting to work for my life.

You see, my life being like a race is finally starting to sink in. My life is a race I am in the middle of. And there really isn’t any way of knowing what “place” I’ll be in when I finish until I am done.

School is like a race. Students often don’t understand this, I think. Or they know they are racing, but have no idea where the finish line is. Students who don’t know they’re in a race have no purpose at all. They go through the motions. They get the grades. They plan to graduate. Or they do the opposite.

Students who don’t know where the finish line is are aimless, lost, and panicking, even if hiding it. They are doing things for the wrong motive. They are constantly stressed, because they are trying to keep up with all of the runners around them, but they have no idea where they are going.

Our goal as teachers is to be their coach. To hand them water on the way around the bend. To cheer them on with hand-made “You can do it!” signs. To give them a map of the course and point out pitfalls. To be there at the end to congratulate them. To show them that we are in reality just the assistant coach, not the Head Coach.

Thinking about school as a race can stress students out, too. For the same reasons thinking about your Christian walk as a race can be scary:

Students, you will not finish school in the near future, and you will not be able to complete it on your own.

Yes, I am saying that you can’t win the school race on your own. You need your parents, your friends, and your teachers to help you finish strong. You need to go to those extra practices when you need tutoring in a subject. You need to give yourself rest days so your muscles—you brain—can recharge. You need to be taking in the right nutrients for your soul, mind, and body—scripture reading, positive thinking, and “intellectual squats,” as Mr. Smith would suggest. You need to be listening to your assistant coaches and Head Coach’s advice.

No, I am not saying you will be in school your entire life, but our goal as assistant coaches is to make you a life-long learner. We want your brains to begin to feel stretched when they haven’t been used in a while, because we want them to need to be used. We want enjoying learning new things to become such a habit that you will just naturally want to learn new things and be excited when you do. We want you to finish your race strong.

So, on your mark, get set, go.

And watch out for that tree. Yep, just go around it. There you go. Carry on.