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What Happens Before the End

Practice Challenge Update | Week 15 of 20

The 1994 Disney movie, "Iron Will", follows Will Stoneman, a young man who is thrust into the role of saving his family's farm following his father's untimely death. He enters a cross country dog sled race, promising to win first place and the monetary prize. Through weeks of harsh, unpredictable weather conditions, deadly terrain and treacherous competitors, a sick and exhausted Will finally sees the finish line and the crowd waiting for him. With only a short distance to travel, he is overcome with fatigue and falls to the ground.

Will's journey is relatable to anyone who has undertaken any kind of life challenge. Our visualization of the end of the journey motivates us to push through the pain. But the closer we get to our goal, our minds and bodies begin to recognize the effort. We see relief and begin to prepare for it.

In our studio, this has been a tough week. With the energy of a recital behind us and with five weeks to go in our practice challenge, my students are eagerly anticipating the finish line. The finish line for us not only means accomplishment of a big goal, but it also means the end of the school year. Warm weather. The end of a tumultuous school year. Space to process the events in our communities. The beginning of something new. The bright approaching glow of the future seems to illuminate the challenging path we are still running.

As Will is collapsed on the ground, from the crowd, his friend whistles the four note tune Will uses to connect with and motivate his dog sled team. The dogs respond by leaping into action. The scene is brought to a dramatic crescendo as the entire crowd chimes in, whistling the melody, spurring on the dedicated dogs and summoning life back into a fallen Will. In a final act of love between animal and owner, they support Will's weary body to the finish line.

We all have our personal go-to whistle, song, phrase or image that provides that final push we need to reenergize, focus the intensity and finish strong. But we also need the crowd. We need that group of supporters to shout us to the end. Over the next few weeks, I encourage you to send a shout-out or a text or a card to a teacher or a student you know. Your word of cheer will remind them of their strength and encourage them to dig just a little deeper for just a little longer to cross that finish line.

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