100 miles -- for most of us -- is an unfathomable distance to cover by foot in a single go. Yet, hundreds of ultramarathoners set out each weekend to run, walk, and grind through many masochistic miles of trail. A good friend of mine is an extraordinary runner who has won several long distance races. In the Wasatch 100 mile trail race a few years ago, his headlamp went out in the middle of the night while traversing treacherous terrain at 10,000 feet. He was alone. He was cold, scared, and exhausted. Yet, with unique tenacity, he grappled with the long night and finished the race with a smile. It remains his "worst" race to date, but it fills him with more pride than any other.
Here comes the obvious metaphor for mid-October: we are preparing our students to be ultramarathoners. As the freshness of a new schoolyear yields to exams, projects, presentations, essays and the like, success will require stamina, resilience, and focus. Woodland teachers are remarkably adept in setting lofty goals and enabling students to succeed. Woodland students seek challenges and pursue passions. Better yet, they see them through to completion -- even when there are setbacks and slogs along the way.
Much like meeting learning goals over the course of a year, ultramarathons are massive endeavors requiring abundant support. And that brings me back to my friend, the ultramarathon runner inneed of a light. Most runners of his breed run with "pacers" for moral support, companionship, and safety along the way. He elected to run through the night of his calamitous race without a pacer. Yikes! Continue the extended metaphor: We won't leave our students in the dark without a light, and they have the tools to find the finish line. We -- families and teachers -- are their pacers.
Tim Campbell, Middle School Dean of Faculty