A Turtle in a Cross Country Race

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Bang! I am deafened by the sound of a gunshot, and suddenly I see hundreds of fourth-graders sprinting towards me. I am temporarily mesmerized by the massive blob of energy consisting of tiny legs moving in unison and tight fists swinging with determination. Right as I am about to be trampled, a row of bright orange cones prompts the leaders of the group to turn the corner. I am then swept back into reality as I remember my job for the day: I am a turtle in a cross country race.

As a turtle, it is my responsibility to run alongside the stragglers of the race to ensure that they eventually make it through the finish line, no matter how long it takes them to get there. Thus, after the last clump of children passes me, my work begins. I jump in behind them and begin to run. After the first minute or so has elapsed, the faces that once consisted of determination begin to fade into expressions of exhaustion. That is when I know I must step in. “You are doing amazing! I’m right here with you! You can do this!” My words elicit a response in the form of slightly faster steps from most children in the group and possibly an eye roll from a few.

As the race progresses, I continue my encouragement and urge the less exhausted runners to...

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