If Running Were Like Education

Okay, so it’s been almost a year since I posted in this blog. One of my goals for this year is to start writing in this thing more. The first I’ve decided to write is a short story about the education system. This came about because I spent two hours in one of my education classes today being lectured about how horrible it is to have a gifted program. I was going to write an article about it, and I most likely will in the near future, but for now, I leave you with this story instead.

If Running Were Like Education

Johnny loved to run. As soon as he was old enough to run, he was unstoppable. Whenever he had a free moment, he was out running. He ran in the yard. He ran at the park. He ran when they went to visit family. When he was stuck inside, he even started to jog in place. His family made fun of him.

“There goes Johnny,” they’d say, shaking their heads. “Always running.”

His family didn’t understand him, but he didn’t care. Running made him feel alive. He wasn’t good at reading or writing, but he could run, and that made him happy. He might not be able to recite the entire alphabet like his older brother could, but he could run really fast without stopping, and that made him feel good about himself.

Of course, his family didn’t see it that way. They told him that he was wasting his time running. They called him a jock and an athlete and other insulting names like that. Their name-calling made Johnny sad. He tried to read like they wanted him to, but he just didn’t find it interesting. He didn’t know why his parents kept trying to force him to hang out with the other readers. He just felt like an outsider.

The only time he really felt happy was when he was outside running. Sometimes he even found other kids who liked to run, and they would run together. Then, when they were done running, they would talk about how fast they could run. They made competitions out of it and had fun. One of Johnny’s new friends had an older sister who was in school, and she told them all about how great it was.

“There’s this class called gym,” she explained, “and all you do is run around the whole time. In fact, you even get a grade based on how fast you can run, and if you get a really fast time, you have the chance to go to a special running school, and you could spend your whole life running and helping other people learn to love running.”

“Wow!” said Johnny. “I can’t wait to start gym!”

That night, Johnny went to bed dreaming about this wonderful class where he would finally be surrounded by other people who understood him.

Johnny was ecstatic when he was finally old enough to take this gym class. He was finally going to get to show off something that he was really good at, something that the other people he knew made fun of. This was his chance.

As the teacher checked off the names of everyone in the class, Johnny looked around, hoping to see some other people who were as excited to be there as he was.

“Calm down, jock,” snapped one of the guys. “What are you so excited about?”

Johnny slumped down a little, embarrassed as a bunch of the other kids laughed. He had hoped that now that he was in gym he would be around other people who liked to run, too, but apparently he was just as out of place here as he was at home. He looked up at the gym teacher and reminded himself that at least the teacher cared. He would be able to show off for his teacher.

“Okay everyone,” said the teacher. “Today, we’re going to have a timed run. You all have to run twelve laps around the court, and you’ll get graded on fast you complete the course. And remember – you have to get a good time if you want a future career in anything running related.”

Johnny couldn’t wait to start. He lined up with everyone else in the class, and when the teacher blew the whistle to start, Johnny took off running as fast as he could. He managed to finish the first lap before most of the other students even finished half a lap. He was about to start his second lap when the teacher held out an arm to stop him.

“Wait, Johnny,” the teacher said. “You can’t start the second lap until everyone else in the class is ready to start the second lap.”

Johnny looked over at the rest of his classmates. “But some of them have barely moved,” he complained.

“That doesn’t matter,” said the teacher, sounding annoyed. “We have to give everyone a fair chance.”

So Johnny waited. A few of this classmates finished shortly after he did. A lot of them stopped running about halfway and started walking instead. When they had regained their energy, they started running again. There were a few, though, that weren’t even trying. No matter how much the teacher called out encouragements, those students never picked up speed. They had been walking from the start, and nothing would make them pick up their paces. Johnny couldn’t believe that he was being forced to wait for students who didn’t even care about running.

After what felt like an eternity, everyone finished the first lap. The teacher didn’t say a word to Johnny but instead complimented the boys who had finished last. “That was a great effort, boys! Way to stick with it!”

Johnny was confused. He thought he had done a good job, but the teacher didn’t seem to care. Maybe that would change after the next lap.

Johnny finished first the next five laps. Still, the teacher said nothing to him, focusing instead on the kids who were barely putting forth any effort at all. Johnny didn’t understand why he was being punished like this. He thought that in gym of all places he would be encouraged to run as best as he could.

For the seventh lap, Johnny slowed his pace a little. He still came in first, but he didn’t see what the point was in finishing as fast as possible if finishing first just meant that he would have to sit around doing nothing the longest. For the eighth lap, he even came in second. For the ninth lap, he jogged at a fraction of the speed he normally ran. He finished at the same time as a bunch of other students, one of which was one of the boys who normally came in last.

“Way to go, Paul!” said the teacher when Paul finished. “I’m so proud of you for improving!”

Johnny was even more confused. He finished at the same time as Paul had, and yet Paul was being complimented for finishing. Why was he being congratulated for being average when Johnny hadn’t been congratulated for being excellent?

By the time the last lap started, Johnny didn’t care about running anymore. What was the point of doing your best if you were just going to be ignored in favor of someone who didn’t even care? He started this lap jogging but slowed to a walk after the first turn. At the second turn, he slowed even further. He was now in last place. Maybe now the teacher would care about him.

Johnny was the last to finish the race. He looked to the teacher, expecting the same sort of praise the other boys had gotten.

“Wow, Johnny,” said the teacher, “you were doing so well in the beginning. I don’t know what happened.”