Hi everyone! It’s the day that my students have been dreaming about since last August…the last day of school! I think it’s so crazy that the school year is over and it’s officially summer in Alaska! Although I won’t have any classes to teach at schools for the next few months, I’ll still be working and getting ready for next year. I ended this year on a high note with all of my groups, and I’m so proud and amazed by how far they came since day one! I love working with teens so much and I can’t say enough good things about my first year as an educator in Alaska 🙂
With the end of the year also came the end of my volunteer coach position with Girls on the Run. Our last session was last Thursday, and I was so sad to have to say goodbye to those amazing girls! We had a fun party to celebrate their accomplishments and reflect on how amazing they all were.
It made me really think about why I joined the program. I was very busy at work, but with my flexible hours I was able to leave early twice a week to make it to practice by 3:30. At first, I was so nervous about what I’d have to do! I’m used to teaching from a curriculum book, but I usually have lots of time to prepare and perfect my lessons. With GOTR I was able to read from the book while adding a bit of my own flair, and once I felt comfortable with the flow of the lessons and what I was going to teach each week I started to relax and have fun! I also loved that the lessons were so relevant and serious – we talked about bullying, media, gossip, being a good friend, loving yourself, being healthy, and having effective communication, but we did it in a fun and unique way that really worked with the 3rd-5th grade age group. My favorite part was how we tried to make running as fun as possible. We tried a few different strategies including stickers and beads on bracelets to keep track of laps, and played fun games like tag and “Running Hangman” where the students guessed a letter and had to run laps if they couldn’t guess a letter in the word. By the end of the program each girl had come so far with running and friendships, and I can tell that the program impacted them in a positive way! I think that we have some future runners in my group for sure, and I look forward to seeing a few of them on race courses soon!
Overall, I HIGHLY recommend working with GOTR! I loved so much about it (you can check out more about what to love about the program in this post), but here are my favorite parts:
- Working with 3rd-5th grade girls is so much fun! I’ve been working with middle/high schoolers for the last few years, but I have a special spot in my heart for elementary girls. They are going through so many changes – they are moving from being little kids to being tweens and are about to enter a really difficult and scary period of their lives, and I loved that I was able to help make a difference at such a critical time.
- The program was so positive! Even when talking about something like gossip, we didn’t criminalize it – we discussed strategies to avoid it and things you could do to end the problem. There was never a lesson that made girls feel bad about their situations, and we always had time to reflect and for the girls to ask us questions or get feedback on tough situations they were facing.
- They introduced running as a fun activity, and made it into a team sport. I hated running as a kid and avoided the mile run in high school whenever possible, but this program took out all the competition and made it not only fun, but something you could do with your friends. I don’t think I ever saw a girl run a lap alone!
- Meeting my co-coach and our teacher host for the year. They are both avid runners and I loved getting to know them and learn from them throughout the season. We’ve already run together outside GOTR a few times, and we have more plans for trail running this summer!
- The girls got to celebrate in a big way. Why run laps twice a week if you’re not going to eventually run a race with all that training? I loved that the girls had a special section at a local 5k where they could get shirts, have their hair braided/colored, and then run with other athletes from the community. They all got medals at the end and they looked so proud!
I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the chance to be a coach again because it did take up a lot of my time and I’m not sure what my work schedule will look like next year. But I will be signing up as a Running Buddy for all of their future 5ks and will do whatever I can to continue helping this awesome organization! After all, Girls on the Run is so much fun!
Do you work with GOTR or another organization that helps promote healthy activities for kids? Did you like to run when you were younger, and what made you decide to start running?