By Norman Knight
It took a second cup of coffee for me to wrap my sleepy head around the idea of leaving my comfortable kitchen chair and driving more than an hour up State Road 135 and around the 465 beltway to the north side during morning rush hour.
“Oh, well,” I thought as I considered all of the construction taking place on the very roads we would be driving. “It might not be that bad.”
The plan was to drive to Allisonville Elementary on 79th Street for the fourth grade Field Day. Normally, we would hear about such school events over the phone or on a regular visit. But we had learned granddaughter Lorelei would be participating in several organized track events including cross-country and relays, and, well, we couldn’t miss her debut as a runner, could we?
We managed to wind our way across country roads so as to avoid the long one-lane waits as workers are re-making 135. Unfortunately, there was no practical way to avoid I-65 north with its workday traffic or the construction where the interstate joins I-465, so we just merged into the flow and tried to keep up.
I-465 is always a driving challenge especially in the mornings and evenings. Maybe it was because of where we were headed, but I began to think about the similarities between running and driving around the highway that circles Indianapolis. Some are racers who go out early and then get stuck in congestion running out of gas. Some are laggers going much slower than the flow of traffic and require others to brake. Then there are the weavers and cutters that keep you on your toes.
Because Becky and I drive this east side stretch of 465 often, I have become more of what you might call a pacer: I find my own pace and try to maintain it. That’s the advice I want to give to Lorelei.
We pulled into the school parking lot just as the entire fourth grade began the cross country run. Soon the runners were spread out along the elementary school’s 1.5-mile cross country course. Of course, some were fast and some were not, but every student who ran eventually crossed the finish line to loud cheers of encouragement from the other students, teachers (some of whom ran alongside the last runners) and family members.
It wasn’t about winning; it was about finishing. Clearly the focus of the day was physical activity, doing your personal best and good sportsmanship. Personally, it was a great opportunity for us to share Lorelei’s excitement with running.
But not all of the events involved running. Students threw softballs and kicked footballs. There was an event where students attempted to see how far they could kick off their shoes. The family members who came to watch were happy to help the teachers run the various stations. The final event before lunch was a tug of war.
Students were divided evenly into 12 teams. The competition was fierce but good-natured. Each team got to pull at least twice. Again, we civilian family members were enlisted to keep the antsy fourth grade teams on the ground in some semblance of order. This is where Becky and I had flashbacks to our years in education. What kid has not had the desire to pull grass and throw it on the kid next to him? What teacher has not had to stop kids from throwing grass and generally messing with each other?
Becky and I left when it was time for the lunchtime cookout. The traffic was slightly less hectic than it was at 8:30 in the morning and we made it home without incident. We were tired and it was only mid-afternoon. It was good to be reminded that teaching takes lots of energy and enthusiasm. The enthusiasm I probably could still muster up, but I’m pretty sure the energy level would do me in.
Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.