As in, almost the end of the school year. As in, almost the end of elementary school for my firstborn son. What?!!
Because I know volunteer opportunities dramatically decrease in middle school, back when school started, I decided I couldn’t possibly say no when my fifth grader asked me to be his Reading Olympics coach. I wasn’t at all sure of my ability to, one, be presentable at 7:45 a.m. every other Thursday morning for months (I know, it’s lame, but I’m blessed with a work-from-home job and a husband who drops the kids off at school in the morning), and two, properly motivate fourth and fifth-grade kids to read – a lot!
I nearly changed my mind when I arrived on the first morning and was promptly greeted by a team member who proclaimed, “I’m only doing this because my mom made me!”
As the meetings progressed, I was surprised by how fond I grew of these kids and actually enjoyed, one, getting up and out the door early on those mornings (can you say on-time for coffee meetings?), and two, encouraging them to read, try books they didn’t think they’d like, and get excited for the competition. As we got closer to the big day, the chart in the library revealed our Reading Rockets (that was the team name we picked) had read the fewest books (by quite a bit) of any of the teams. And word spread that some of the other teams had a member who had read all of the books on the list. “We’re gonna get creamed!” our teammates declared. “They have a secret weapon – that kid who read all of the books!” The kids were talking about it even as we went to our meeting spot on competition morning.
By the end of the day, we were all tired and ready for the sad news that we were in last place. “It doesn’t matter what place we’re in,” I reassured them. “You guys did a great job!” And then, when the awards were given out, we were all pleasantly surprised to learn the Reading Rockets came in third! I was so moved by the whole experience, I penned a letter to the team after the competition that included some life lessons everyone can use. That means, dear readers, you get two notes for the price of one this month because here it is…
Dear Reading Rockets,
I sure did enjoy my time with you, and I am so proud of how well you did on competition day! There were a lot of great lessons we (including me!) learned, weren’t there? Such as:
Never underestimate your ability. I heard lots of talk that morning about how we were going to be at the bottom, but look what happened – third place! Don’t make assumptions about how things are going to turn out. And if we had come in last place, that would have been okay, too, because we tried our hardest and did our very best!
Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. I wasn’t sure if I would be a good coach, and some of you might not have been sure if you had what it took to be in Reading Olympics. And I know you all read some books that might not have been your first choice. But you did it, you found some books that you actually enjoyed, and you can be proud of the role you played on your team.
It’s all about working together, as a team. I also heard lots of, “That team has a secret weapon, that person who read all of the books!” But did that matter to us at the end of the day? No, it did not! Never rely on one person to carry you through. Pitch in and make whatever contribution you can make – always!
It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. This is the most important lesson of all, I think. Even I thought we wouldn’t do as well as the other teams because we had read fewer books, but in the end, you guys retained the information from the books you read, which was all that mattered. So many times in life, you’ll find that less is more – have you ever heard that saying? Remembering this will serve you well all through life. It might be about how many friends you have – having a bunch of friends isn’t nearly as important as having a few really good friends who look out for you, have your back always, and are real, true friends. It might be about how much “stuff” you have, but that isn’t important either. A few nice toys, books, games, whatever you’re into, is better than a ton of it. And when you get older and start using social media, please don’t ever think that having the most Instagram likes or Facebook friends, or whatever is popular at the time, is important. I promise you,
IT IS NOT!
By the end of the letter to the team, I was pretty much in tears thinking about my little man participating in this cool reading program at school, being successful at it, and growing up way too fast. If you haven’t had a chance to volunteer at your school, I encourage you to find a way to do it. I couldn’t believe how personally rewarding it was. And that kid who was only doing it because his mom made him? I think he loved the whole experience most of all.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the rest of RFM this month!