(New Year’s Eve seems a perfect time to think about the goals we have for the year ahead. To think about where we want to grow and what we need to do to get there. In my usual tradition, my main goals each year have to do with fitness and exercise…)
So, I am not a runner. This is not a surprise to anyone who knows me. But the thing is, I have been fascinated for years by runners, and I have toyed with becoming one. I actually have all of the knowledge necessary to become a runner. I have read many, many books about running. I subscribed to the print version of Runner’s World for years, and I currently get their daily emails. I subscribe to several blogs on running and follow some of the running news. I buy shoes at running stores and sometimes just hang out there. I listen closely when my running friends are talking about training for races, running injuries, etc. I have just never gotten around to actually…running.
A few weeks ago, I was with a group of friends. One was getting ready to run his first half-marathon. He was talking about the gel packets he would have with him to keep up his energy. I knew all about these and was able to explain them to our non-runner friends. They were amazed that I (a non-runner) understood about race food.
A week later, I was in a conversation with a different group of friends who had run the Chicago Marathon. They were talking about women in running skirts and I had remembered reading all about those on ANOTHER MOTHER RUNNER (http://anothermotherrunner.com/) blog, a blog I read regularly since reading their book, RUN LIKE A MOTHER. On their blog, I learned that running skirts are all the rage. Women runners either hate them or love them. No happy medium. In the midst of this conversation with my runner friends, I wanted to jump in with some thoughts I had about running skirts. But then I remembered that I was not a runner and I did not have the credibility to talk about running skirts with real runners.
I have been in several conversations lately that have reminded me how very much I know about running. I sometimes actually “know” more about running than my running friends. These are conversations that I am not quite comfortable participating in because I am not a runner. I am not part of the club. I just watch from the sidelines.
No matter how much knowledge I have, I cannot call myself a runner. Running is not part of my life. I could probably not even run to the mailbox and back (and my driveway is not very long.) But here is the thing that I can’t stop thinking about: I am certain I could pass a test on running. I am certain that I could probably pass a test at a higher level than most of my runner friends could. I have a lot of knowledge and understanding about running and feel confident about doing well on a test about running.
I keep thinking about this and acknowledging the fact that knowing a lot about running is not the same as running. This knowledge might end up becoming important if I ever become a runner and it does help me in some conversations. But what good does that do me, really? When I don’t actually run? When I am not part of the club?
How different this is compared to my life as a reader. Even though I attained a nearly perfect score on Tony Keefer’s quiz, “You Might be a Nerdy Book Clubber if…” (http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/you-might-be-a-nerdy-book-clubber-if), I don’t need anyone to tell me I am a part of the Nerdy Book Club. I don’t worry that some members read more than I do or that some members read faster than I do. I don’t worry about joining conversations that I have no business participating in. Even weeks when I can’t fit in a book, I know I am a reader. Reading is a huge part of my life and I don’t feel the need to prove that to anyone.
One of my favorite things about my job as a school librarian is that kids stop me in the hall constantly, mentioning a book they finished or one they want to read. They tell me the page number they are on or an author they’ve discovered. Sometimes I wonder if reading is the only thing they think they can talk to me about. Then I realize that it is at those times that they see me as a fellow club member; that they know I will understand their need to share their reading lives.
But I also see kids trying to get into the club. Standing on the edges of these conversations. Checking books back into the library with a bookmark about 1/3 of the way through, never having been finished. These kids seem to get excited when someone mentions an author they know. But they don’t feel confident joining the conversations. They don’t see themselves as readers.
This year, I’ve bumped into lots of past students – students I taught in 4th and 5th grades who have recently graduated. It is so fun to see what they ended up doing, which passions they discovered. They tend to tell me all of that, and then often mention what/if they are reading. They know I’ll wonder and that no matter which career path they’ve chosen to follow, that I still hope they are lifelong members of the Nerdy Book Club. I like to believe that I was one of the people who first invited them to be part of this club.
Each of us was invited into the club by someone who wanted us to be part of the fun. We saw something that we wanted to be a part of and there were lots of people in our lives who made joining the Nerdy Book Club possible. As a teacher, I know this takes commitment and hard work. I know it means giving kids great books, time to read, a reading community to be a part of, and instruction that moves them forward as readers.
So in 2012 I have two goals. I am going to be very deliberate in helping every child become part of the Nerdy Book Club. I am going to watch carefully to see which students feel confidently part of this club and which are standing along the sidelines wishing to be part of it all. I’m going to try to give them the support they need to become lifelong members.
And, of course, in 2012….I am going to actually run.