Every Monday my students write freely for five whole minutes. Over the last two years I’ve struggled to build their stamina, but I’ve also enjoyed those magical Mondays of constant writing–even after the buzzer tells students to stop. Today, like most days, included some periods of bliss and one particularly difficult free write. Students were jumpy and antsy after lunch and a few didn’t produce much. I was frustrated and reiterated that our five minute free writes are a luxury. I wanted those boys to see that how precious our time was and how important their thoughts were and are. So today, instead of getting started on dinner or rolling out my ITband, I am indulging in five minutes of writing.
Sometimes I can’t turn off my runner brain, even when I’m super out of shape, so for me time is always connected to distances. Three minutes to catch that next train? No problem! I could go a half mile in that time if I REALLY needed to! When students try to pack up with one minute left in class, I squeeze more in. Hey! If people (my old self included) can run 400m or more in that time, we can fit in one more ounce of English.
My running and teaching world’s collide in a Rudyard Kipling poem that I was initially drawn to because of his reference to time in this way. As a 400 runner and an English Lit. major one of my favorite lines in poetry comes from his poem,”If”.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
It gave you chills, right? The sixty-seconds of a distance run are what initially drew me to this poem, but as with every piece of literature, the meanings change for us during different times in our life. No longer am I only drawn to the running reference, but now it’s the power and repetition of if.
I never thought about just how much is contained in those two letters. The word if when used as a noun is full of possibility. The word if when used as a conjunction can express an exclamation, “If only they could see me now!” being my favorite.
As a high school teacher each day is full of questionable ifs. What if no one gets the lesson? What if no one learns? For me my job requires a certain level of self doubt. It helps me to anticipate what could go wrong and work to answer the what ifs before they even happen.
If the what ifs are the most daunting, then my favorite part of being a high school teacher has to do with the if of uncertain possibility. The infinite if. The anticipation of wondering what my kiddos will become and if the work and learning they do with me will have an impact.
I cheated on my buzzer. Writing time is 23 minutes…and I’m wondering if my out of shape butt could run a 23 minute 5k this week.