I love competition. I also love watching phenomenal athletes compete against one another. One of my favorite competitions to watch first-hand is horse racing. I’m not a huge fan of watching it on TV, but given the opportunity, a visit to the horse track is high on my list of options. 

My bride and I love to visit Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, TX. Not only is it simply a gorgeous venue, it is big enough to provide the “feel” of a big-time horse track while at the same time being small enough to provide a sense of intimacy between the crowd, the horses, and their jockeys. In addition, the venue plays host to a number of Texas country music artists, which only serves as an added perk for this Red Dirt music lover. 

We are not professional gamblers by any stretch of the imagination, nor are we horse racing experts, so our annual patronage to the horse track is a crapshoot at best. We enter the track with a set budget—usually in the ballpark of $100 to wager on the horses in the races that day. If we win money, great…and if we lose, it was simply money we set aside in our entertainment budget for that month. 

Watching horses race is majestic in its own right; those animals are crafted machines of power, speed, and grace. If there is anything more poignant than watching a horse run at full stride, I am not privy to know. When you throw in a $10 wager on a horse to win the race, it only adds to the nervous excitement and anticipation that spreads throughout the crowd. 

As the group of horses comes out of turn 4 and enters the homestretch, it becomes an all-out sprint to the finish. The roar of the crowd grows in intensity as they cheer for their horse to have what it takes to cross the finish line ahead of its peers. The jockeys can be seen enticing their horse to give every last ounce of energy they have left. And one can almost sense that the horses themselves are aware of the spotlight that rests just beyond the finish line for one of them. 

As students and educators alike return to school following spring break and enter the homestretch towards the end of the school year, ask yourself: “Are you in an all-out sprint to the finish line?” Let’s be honest, the school year is a grind for all of its stakeholders. By the time we reach April and May, it’s easy to adopt a survival mindset and simply cruise towards the finish line. In order to be a game-changer, however, we must be able to shift into high gear and finish the school year as strong as we began. Just like the analogy made in athletics, day 180 of the school year is just as important as day 1. As one of my favorite educational gurus, Todd Whitaker, says, “The best way to make sure students do not act like the school year is over is to make sure teachers do not act like the school year is over.”

So, as the educational world comes out of turn 4, approach the homestretch of the school year with a relentless passion. Is it easy? No, but nothing in life worth accomplishing is ever easy, let alone an accomplishment as prestigious and valuable as that of being an educator. 

I often share with my kids the thunderous sound that is associated with the standing ovation their class will receive during their graduation ceremony and how there are very few moments in life when they will experience such a sense of pride and accomplishment. Standing ovations are sacred; people don’t simply stand in unison to applaud a group or individual without just cause. For many of my students, this will be the first time that they have ever been on the receiving end of a standing ovation, and I want that experience for them more than almost anything in this world. 

Educators, love and believe in your students enough to continue to create powerful learning moments for your students as you entice them to give every last ounce of effort they have left. Students, as eager as you are for graduation and/or summer break, it’s vital to realize that the legends don’t have a finish line. Legends live life in an all-out sprint towards the winner’s circle.