Thursday, May 15, 2008

Back to School

I spend a fair amount of my life on the road traveling to events all over the country. It's become a part of who I am and it's a very comfortable place for me to be. It doesn't matter to me whether it's a 6,000 plus people at a Team in Training pasta party or 10 people in a running specialty store. I like being out there and talking to, and with, other runners and walkers.

This week, though, I am going to Lima, Ohio to talk to a group of elementary students - and I am scared to death. OK, not to death, but I am much more nervous about speaking in front of a bunch of kids than adults. Kids, you know, won't let you get away with anything. If you're not "getting it done" they will let you know in a hurry.

It's an interesting group, though. The school has a "positive addiction" program in which the students train for a 5K. Guess that's why they think bringing in a running guy makes sense. So, at least I'll be able to relate to their experiences getting ready for the race.

I've been trying to find a way to package the "penguin" message into something that works for a 5th grader and it's not that easy! I don't think many of the kids at that age will have struggled with cigarettes and booze! At least I hope not.

But, I think, one of the essential elements of being a "penguin" is learning to define yourself FOR yourself. Many of us - and I suspect so many of them - have been defined by the people around us that we have no idea who or what we truly are. And if we start buying into other's expectations as children it's nearly impossible to break free of those expectations as adults.

So that's my plan; to help them learn to be strong in themselves and what they want to be. Wish me luck.

John

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

While kids may not have struggled with booze and cigarettes, they struggle every day with junk food and screen time addictions. Trust me your message still works. I could have used your message when I was a fifth grader and being told that I might as well just quit in PE class if all I could do was walk. Waddle on sir.

Kat said...

I'm a head coach for Girls on the Run, a program that trains 3rd to 5th grade girls to run a 5K while teaching them things like the importance of keeping promises and taking media messages with a grain of salt. The kids will challenge you, but it's incredible what sponges they are and how they soak up passion, intensity and positive messages. Taking the time to speak with them and showing them how much you love what you do will leave an impact on so many of them... getting an additional message through will be icing on the cake. You don't need good luck... just have fun :)

Anonymous said...

Art Linkletter said "Kids say the darndest things!" Many are from single parent homes, with people who tell them they will never amount to "nuthin". They need successful adults to show them that they are special and can be happy and successful also...especially the boys, who are failing at all grade levels in greater numbers.
Thanks for being a great role model.
Swiftee

26 - PT - TWO said...

Good luck, Penguin!

The great thing about running is that it is accessible to people of all ages and economic backgrounds. It's something many parents can do with their kids.

A month or so ago, I was at a 5K where a large group of runners were 5th and 6th graders and they were running with teachers and parents. The kids were outdoors, having fun.

e said...

You are so right. Running isn't always about finishing the race, running is accepting that you won't always be first.

And boy, I hope they're not into booze and smokes!


Good luck in Lima. Be sure to check out the "Kewpie Burger" in town: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kewpee

I mean, how could you not have a burger there?

Cheers!

Non-Runner Nancy said...

Sounds like a great cause. Kids need to see adults committing to fitness and being active, not to win, but to be healthy and strong and feel confident and alive. (at least that's what we people say who will never win! hee hee) I'm sure you will have an impact and do just fine. They will keep you on your toes though, you're right about that!

I also thank you for being a good role model!

Kim said...

after just hearing you speak in Elmhurst at Dick Pond's - I have no doubt you will amuse the 5th graders!

You have a gift, you are a fantastic speaker and if you inspire even one kid, then that is one less kid that may someday head down a wrong path.