These past few days I have been in Boston and as many can assume, I have enjoyed running around this beautiful and historic city. So many spots caused me to stop and take in a sight, but it was a billboard I came across that has been rattling around in my head. It was a piece of art on the side of a building downtown for the Boston Marathon. It is an image of different people running, freewheeling or riding with the question, “What gets you to the finish line?” Something about that question has just stuck with me the past couple days.
Yes, we can talk about what gets us to the finish line of any run, ride, walk, or workout. Yet, I was thinking more about the implications for all of us in education from the students and parents we serve to the colleagues and administrators we work with. We all have finish lines, whether it’s a class project, a professional goal, or just getting through the day. More so, we all require something different to get there. I think it’s safe to say most people understand this concept and agree we are all different and require different things to have our needs met. This is the basis of differentiation and not a new concept for most of us.
However, I think the other piece we too often forget is what happens before that “race” even begins. What is the background we experience before we get to that finish line? Jumping back to running, the training for a marathon is harder than the actual race itself. There is a great deal of hardship, injury, and sweat before you even step up to the start line.
This holds true for our students and staff in a school. We are quick to judge each other based on outcomes but fail to see what happened beforehand. We judge students actions and behaviors without trying to understand what brought them to that place. So too we judge teachers without seeking to find out why they are in that space. I’m guilty of doing this more times than I am proud to admit.
The longer I teach and interact with both students and teachers, the more I realize everyone is running their own race. While it’s easy to judge by what we see on the surface, I need to be reminded to stop and develop empathy for what likely happened prior to that moment. I know I can be better about trying to understand why students or teachers act, speak or work in a particular way. Because at the end of the day it’s all about answering the question “What gets you to the finish line” while recognizing we have all trained differently.