I was up at 3:30 this morning and out the door at 4:00. Why? Not to test my stamina...but to take my husband to Seattle where he (and 10,000 other people) hit the start line to bicycle 200 miles to Portland. Yes, 200 miles on a bicycle. That's where stamina comes in. This is no easy feat...it will take most of them two days. He has been training for months. The reward? A t-shirt and the satisfaction of a hard-earned accomplishment.
I have been thinking about stamina. The average person is not going to find it easy to mount a bicycle and pedal 200 miles over two days...nevermind that it's not even all flatland. This feat requires preparation and training: eating right, building muscle strength and endurance, practicing being on a bicycle seat for extended periods of time, knowing how and when to change gears, learning to master weariness and keep going (even uphill) to get to the finish. I wouldn't dream of attempting this...though I will admit there was a palpable feeling of excitement and adventure at the start line. But the intensity of the effort required to prepare and the immensity of the final ride itself intimidates me. In short, I am afraid to try. For my husband, the love of cycling and adventure defeated the fear. Not only was he not afraid to try...he's on his way.
So, what about our students? Learning to read is another challenging task. But, we have been in training and mastering our practices for years. The task is not daunting anymore...in fact, it's easy...and easy to forget how daunting it once was. To each kindergartener starting out though, the thought of reading is still very daunting. Are they excited at the start line? Yes...most. However, as in the cycling event today, the intensity of effort and immensity of the task are huge. Some students will be overwhelmed and intimidated at the thought...some afraid to try.
As we begin a new year, focused on benchmarks and strategies, remember this. The task of learning to read is daunting...especially for those little ones with limited experience with books, the alphabet, or language. But, we as teachers know how daily practice will build skills needed to read...practice with letters and their sounds, practice with sight words, practice with phonological concepts, practice when and how to use strategies, and practice building stamina to sit with a book for an extended period of time. The training is about to begin...the reward? There is no t-shirt this time, but there is hopefully satisfaction for a hard-earned accomplishment...and if we're lucky a lifelong love of reading to go with it!