Setting the pace for the students

Published 12:23 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2011

By JASON MAYFIELD / Community Columnist

As best I could tell, there were two pacers on the streets of Birmingham at the Ruben Studdard Half Marathon.

One pacer was bright and shiny. It was a car, the Talladega Superspeedway Official Pace Car, and it was said to be the one to lead the runners through the course.

The other pacer had a bright red “Me Want Cookies!” Sesame Street shirt. That pacer was me, and my job was to get my sister to a PR (personal record time).

Fortunately, this “man vs. machine” battle turned out better than the legendary story of John Henry (spoiler alert: the steam drill won). Sister and I made it a good half mile into the race before we noticed that the pace car was done for the day. We, however, made it the full 13.1 miles. Sister got her best time, in part, she said, because “You kept talking and that kept me distracted.”

The pace car missed so much. There was Legion Field, Rickwood Field, Railroad Park, an Avondale park and a “killer” hill.

There are bright, shiny new teachers every year. They sometimes take over the toughest classrooms and produce the most amazing results, even parlaying their year’s success into a book or movie deal. Unfortunately, they last about as long as the “official” pace car in the Studdard race.

One of the greatest gifts we can give the next generation is simply the gift of our time, our staying presence throughout whatever “race” they’re in. The best teachers aren’t the ones who draw attention to themselves. They are the ones who go alongside their students for the journey of a year, that speed up or slow down the pace in a moment’s notice so that when the finish comes, the class produces stunning results, results that draw attention to the real superstars, the students, and not those who led the way.

Jason Mayfield is a gifted instructor at Columbiana Middle School.