Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Maybe the Power of Story is Grit
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Slice of Life: Maybe the Power of Story is Grit


My son Jack and I ran a half-marathon to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital this weekend. A few days before the race we received an email from St. Jude providing us the information we would need to navigate the weekend. In that email, there was one line that stood out to me,

Remember to get to know your fellow runners. Ask a fellow runner what inspired them to run for St. Jude.

On the morning of the race, I wished Jack luck and made my way to my starting corral. I looked around at the thousands of runners I did not know and then remembered the line from the email. I approached the first group of runners and asked,

What inspired you to run for St. Jude?

I quickly realized that so many of these runners were connected to someone personally and have been directly impacted by St. Jude. They were running to give back and express gratitude. I immediately felt like a member of a community. Hearing the words, “Hey Boston! Come over here and listen to this story.” “Hey Boston!   Did you meet my friend?” “Hey Boston! Come join us and meet the ‘Rock Stars’ we are running for.” A group of children were Facetiming the runners on someone’s iPhone.  These kids were in St. Jude and wanted to be with us at the starting line:

Hey Heroes! We want you to know that we signed up to have our chemotherapy at 8:00 am this morning so we can be in the fight with you. We will be watching every step you take for us today. Watching you will give us strength to fight. But if you need strength out there today … if you get to a point when you think you have nothing left to give….remember our faces, hear our voices and know we are right here with you. Together we will win this fight against cancer.


I crossed the starting line in tears – moved by the strength and generosity of these children. They stayed with me each step and I continued to ask this question for 13.1 miles. Almost everyone I met was either running for someone they knew personally or they themselves had battled canceled with the help of St. Jude. Each and every one thanked me and shared their story. I have never been so overwhelmed, inspired and humbled.

I was so struck by the power of story – slices – throughout this experience. I hugged hundreds of strangers, high-fived countless spectators, and shared tears of loss with fellow runners. It amazed me that the power of story transformed what could be viewed as tragic, hopeless and unfair to perseverance, inspiration and gratitude. Where did they find this strength in the face of adversity?

So many of us are thinking about growth mindset and grit in education. St. Jude finds grit through the power of story. In a setting that must depend on tests, numbers, and diagnosis, they remember to tell the story of the person. It is clear that the focus is on the child as a person first and foremost. I wonder if this is what gives them the strength to inspire and see greatness where others might see misfortune. They choose to focus on the positive and come together as a community, and together they find strength.

I want to remember this line from the email:

Remember to get to know your fellow runners. Ask a fellow runner what inspired them to run for St. Jude.

I will change it to:

Get to know your fellow_________. Ask a fellow ________________what inspires them to ____________.

I think this could apply in so many situations in life and in schools. I want to remember I have the choice to focus on each person’s story first and in that choice I have the power to transform adversity to strength.

me and jack

If you want to learn more about St. Jude check out their website and this children’s book: http://giftshop.stjude.org/accessories/books-media/abc-s-of-cancer-photobook.html


Each mile marker of the marathon was dedicated to a letter of the alphabet – each letter represents a message of hope, strength and gratitude. The teacher in me kept hoping these posters at each mile marker had been made into a children’s alphabet book.  It has and  I just ordered mine – can’t wait to read it.





  • Avatar
    Bonnie Kaplan
    Posted at 11:23h, 08 December Reply

    What an inspiring Slice- the power of story changed my life 🙂

    • Avatar
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:45h, 09 December Reply

      That is a good title – wished I had thought of it! Thanks for joining me today.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 14:26h, 08 December Reply

    This is such a great point! Just yesterday, I was talking to colleagues about the importance of “why.” I started posting why we have our daily objective, and talking more with kids about why I bother to give them feedback, why it is important to grow… It matters. Thanks for sharing!

    • Avatar
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:44h, 09 December Reply

      It really does make a difference — especially if we take the time to slow down and listen to the response. Thanks for sharing your experience.


  • Avatar
    Dana Murphy
    Posted at 19:04h, 08 December Reply

    Your post has ME in tears! How inspiring! Congrats on a successful race!

  • Avatar
    Posted at 22:33h, 08 December Reply

    Bravo! I loved reading through your experience participating in this great cause.

    • Avatar
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:42h, 09 December Reply

      It was truly amazing! Hoping a new tradition for us. Thanks.

  • Avatar
    Posted at 03:42h, 10 December Reply

    This is such an inspiring slice, Clare! Congratulations to you and your son for being part of this amazing day.

  • Avatar
    Annette Bay Pimentel
    Posted at 17:56h, 10 December Reply

    Beautiful story. I love the reminder to get to know our fellow runners in life and what inspires them.

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