Monday, April 19, 2010

The Scariest Letters in the Alphabet

“What are the three most ominous letters in the alphabet?” asks the man with the deep voice on the radio. His answer; “I-R-S”. I have a different answer.

I recently read an article about a runner who is one of the favorites in today’s Boston Marathon. The article’s author points out that this runner might not even finish the race. He is known to drop out of any race where he will not finish in the top 3. To me this is unfathomable. If you enter a race, barring a serious injury, you should be in it until the finish. I still remember approaching an aid station during my first marathon. I was dehydrated and in pain and was looking for a few Tylenol. The women at the aid station asked me if I wanted to stop. Did I want to stop? Of course I did. Did I give it a second’s thought? No way. It didn’t matter if I had to crawl. I was going to finish.

Many years ago I had a student who was going through a rough stretch in his life. I tried to help in all ways possible, to no avail. A colleague of mine told me that I should pull back and recognize that I could not help everyone. He punctuated his story by telling of a former student who, despite my colleague’s best efforts, had left the school and not done well. I listened to his story but could not agree. To me, as a teacher, once you begin a relationship with a student you have to be willing to be in it until the end. I have had teachers and colleagues who seemed to only work the “winners”. All students without potential were cast to the side, literally or figuratively. To me this unfathomable.

The three scariest letters? D-N-F.


  1. I agree with your points. I haven't started a race that I haven't been able to finish. That's not to say that I haven't wanted to quit a few times. It's hard to believe that someone would just quit a race because he isn't winning. I couldn't/wouldn't do that.