Teaching is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Kevin Berry is a senior at Boston College. He is an experienced runner and has spent several semesters tutoring middle school students. He interned with Citizen Schools during the summer. As a senior at Boston College I have experienced several Marathon Mondays, the day when all of Boston watches and celebrates the runners in the Boston Marathon. It was during my internship with Citizen Schools this summer that I discovered some similarities between running a marathon and running something else...

While watching the runners on Marathon Monday during my freshmen year, I was amazed at how many BC students were running on behalf of the Campus School (not to be confused with Citizen Schools) which serves students with severe disabilities. They all seemed to be having so much fun as they ran down Commonwealth Ave. I told myself that the following year I would be running with them.

Since then I have successfully ran the Boston Marathon twice.

In my internship with Citizen Schools this summer I worked with the talent department which recruits college seniors to apply for the National Teaching Fellowship. During my time at Citizen Schools, I met Teaching Fellows who were changing students’ lives in their classrooms. I got to know some incredible people who work hard to provide opportunities for kids from low-income communities. The experience got me thinking about the time I spent training for the marathon and the work that Citizen Schools does with students across the country. I realized that training for the marathon is a lot being a Teaching Fellow:

1. Persistence is key. In my experience as a tutor, I didn't see my students go from a D to an A after just one week. Similarly, it would have been impossible for me to be able to run 26 miles after just one week of training. There are going to be times when the task at hand seems out of reach and overwhelming. But there will also be hours spent in the classroom and hours spent in running shoes when it is clear how much progress is being made. Persistent effort pays off even if it takes time to see the final grade or the finish line.

2. Practice makes perfect. When I first begin training, just a few miles might seem like too many. But as I progress, I become more confident with each mile that I will make it to the finish line. Teaching Fellows and all educators might be extremely nervous on their first day, but with time and practice, they will be able to impact their students with a confidence that comes from “putting in the miles” in the classroom.

3. It’s a balancing act. In the classroom, students might go from happy and engaged to bored and disinterested. While training for the marathon you might run into strained muscles, rainy weather or lack of sleep. Being able to quickly adapt to new changes and challenges is key in both situations. Teachers need to be flexible to find the right balance in their classrooms to keep their students on track. Runners need to find the balance between pushing their bodies and taking the time to rest. Teachers and runners are constantly on the move. When they’re out there pounding the pavement, they have to be able to adapt to what the day gives them.

I am proud to say that I am now the Marathon Committee Chair for The Campus School at Boston College. I only have one more Marathon Monday as a college student but who knows how many more miles on the pavement or in the classroom I have ahead of me? I’m not sure what the next step is for me, but maybe it's with Citizen Schools. After all, helping kids achieve their dreams is a marathon, not a sprint, and I’ve gotten pretty good at running marathons.