This semester, I have started volunteering with our school's after school running club. Running club is open to all of the students, Kindergarten to 8th grade, and meets 3 times a week. I am one of the coaches or teachers that goes with the middle school students on the "Community Run" a distance that is anywhere from 2.5 to 3.5 miles. Most days, I really enjoy running with these students, encouraging them to keep going, sweating it out right beside them. Today was not one of those days.
We were missing several coaches today so our groups were combined. The community runners and middle distance runners were put into one group. We ran a new route I had never been on before and didn't feel very comfortable with. The distance we were running was alongside a walking trail that runs parallel to the light rail. Since the run was not very long, we were going to do the trail two times. As I neared the ending of the sidewalk the first time, I started to yell at some of the faster runners to turn around and do it again. Much to my annoyance, they kept running back to the Brian Coyle Center, our starting place.
After the other 2 coaches arrived, I let them know that I was going to go recruit the runners that had ditched out on the second part of the run. I busted my tail over to the Brian Coyle Center only to see about 4 of the guys bolt toward the building. Once inside, they congregated in the boys bathroom. Great. There was not much I could do, but as they started to make their way out of their bathroom, I had a few angry words for them. "We are not finished with our run. I'm going to be talking to Coach Weber." Coach Weber is in charge of running club. She also happens to be the boys' soccer coach. Every Thursday after running club, these same guys have a soccer game that they feel pretty passionate about. As soon as I mentioned I was going to be talking to her, they were scared.
A couple of the boys offered, "Can we run extra?"
"Yeah you can run extra, but I'm still going to let her know what happened here."
They must have realized how upset I was, and they all made their way back out to the track to do the last lap.
As I followed the boys back to the main track so they could finish the run, I was thankful that at least they were going to do the run. But I was still miffed. Sometimes I feel that because I am short or have a high voice or smile a lot, people don't take my word for what it is. It's frustrating. Furthermore, since running club is a privilege, and we are responsible for the student's safety, I knew that if I didn't address the boys' defiance and disrespect, they would likely just do the same thing at the next practice.
As Coach Weber talked to the boys, at first they denied it. I told them I had a hard time believing that they didn't know what to they were supposed to do when as soon as they saw me running towards them they all bolted inside to the Brian Coyle Center.
And then, slowly, one at a time, the truth dripped out as the boys confessed.
"Yeah, I heard her," said one student.
"Wait, I think I did something wrong. I heard her" said another student.
"Thank you Abdullahi for being honest. Now, what do you need to do to make it right" asked Coach Weber.
"Say I'm sorry. I'm sorry Mrs. T."
"That's okay. Just listen right away the next time" I responded as I shook his hand.
A couple more conversations happened like this until we were down to the last student. This was the first student that had run off to the Brian Coyle Center in the first place. He is also the fastest student and somewhat of a leader among the other guys.
He stood there with his arms crossed looking annoyed. The Coach called him on his bad attitude and posture. Finally, he switched his approach and before I knew what was happening, this student had made his apology and given me a sweaty hug.
I had forgotten what it is like to work with Middle Schoolers, but joining them for running club has been a vivid reminder.