On October 22 of my first year of teaching, I bandaged blisters on both of my heels after a long day of school. Physical injuries don’t last as long as sores on your soul, though, do they? When I think back to this day, I know that I would do it all over again for you if it would help your heart mend.
Making copies in the front office, I glanced out the window. Coach was instructing the class to run laps for the last 5 minutes of P.E. on the basketball court.
9:11 a.m.: I noticed an unusual amount of attention on you. Alex was red-faced, and I could even hear his voice inside.
“Come on, Consuelo!”
Concerned and curious, I finished my copies and walked outside.
“Again!” Coach bellowed and blew the whistle.
Each of your teammates started sprinting around the basketball court, except you.
Colin screamed, “Run, Consuelo, run!”
“What wrong with you, girl?” Jada yelled from across the court.
9:12 a.m.: Coach checked his watch. Mia was the last to stumble to Coach at the end of the court. You were still standing with your back against the chain link fence.
“We are one team and one family. We will run again until every single teammate runs a lap in less than 60 seconds.” Coach blew the whistle again.
Chaos swelled to a feverish pitch. I actually thought a few of the boys were going to post up and come after you. Suddenly, I found myself at your side. The tears in your eyes splashed onto my red wedges.
“Oh Miss, I’m sorry –”
“Consuelo, if I run this lap, will you run with me?”
I was nervous, unsure if you would move, and worried that Coach would make your class run until a fight broke out.
“We have 41 seconds left. Will you run with me? I don’t want to run by myself!” – I said.
Your eyes widened, looking at my shoes, my pencil skirt, and the clipboard in my hand.
“39 seconds. Let’s do this! Together.”
Yes, I know my hair looked “nappy” the rest of the day (thanks to J.J. for that description) and my outfit was a little wrinkled. But seeing you smile, just a little, through those tears and watching you work up the courage to jog alongside me made it absolutely worth it.
Now here we are, one year later, and you are still running endless laps surrounded by the agitated taunts of a new class of 11 and 12 year-olds. Where has your stubborn spirit taken you, Consuelo? You are still on that basketball court, only you’re 13 now, the oldest in the 6th grade. You cannot afford to drag your feet and refuse to work anymore. You did not perform academically last year, piddling with your schoolwork, and devastatingly, you failed every class.
When we divided up rosters this year, I requested you in my homeroom. We’re running this lap together, you and I, sixth grade, round two. This year, we’re going to run for the feel of the wind and the joy of hard work bursting in our lungs.
Right next to you every step of the way.
All my love,