If asked to name the aspects of my job I love the most, at the top of that list would be that I work with some of the best people I have ever known. The event that solidifies that belief every year is our staff's Amazing Race.
For the past few years some of my colleagues have orchestrated this event in the same fashion as the reality show. We make teams of four, and begin the race somewhere within the school building. It ultimately leads us around surrounding towns, and we end up at a local restaurant/bar, where the first team to arrive, having successfully completed all of the challenges, is declared the champion. There is also always a charity tie-in, which elevates the event from frivolous fun to philanthropic, frivolous fun. It is by far a highlight of my working life, and is so much fun it's also a highlight of my personal life.
Every race and each challenge is unique, but all of them make for an incredible time. This year's race was especially fun for me. Initially I wasn't planning on racing. After a week of parent-teacher conferences and an impending weekend of a wedding and baptism I felt like I would need Friday afternoon to myself. Knowing how easily stressed and overwhelmed I can be by a packed schedule (even with as joyous events as the ones I had planned for this weekend), I felt like I needed some time to just breathe. And the Amazing Race--- when you're sprinting through the hallways of your school, the passenger in a car that is speeding down highways, and eating a box of Rice Krispies (without anything to drink) as quickly as you can-- is by no means an event that is relaxing. But as soon as I arrived at school Friday morning, the building abuzz with anticipation, I regretted my overly cautious decision, and bemoaned my self-preservative nature. Then, as luck would have it, a colleague was unable to participate, and a spot on a team opened up.
I love my traditional team. Vicki, Shanna and Jackie are all good friends and we have so much fun together. Plus we've won the race twice (the first repeat winners, I might add!) so as competitors it's the ideal team. That being said, it was so much fun to race with new teammates. Ana and Katie are colleagues who I really admire, so it felt great to spend an afternoon with them, and Brian is a new teacher to our building, and it gave me an opportunity to get to know him. This, to me, is the magic of the race. My coworkers are incredible people. I've always held a belief that anyone who teaches middle school has to have a strong connection to their inner-adolescent. The Amazing Race exemplifies the best of that: we are all shameless, working together to achieve a common, ridiculous goal, united for an afternoon that is about competition and camaraderie, good humor and adventure. It gives you the opportunity to be 13 again, and to feel what it would've been like to grow up with your coworkers. Any workplace suggests and promotes team building; with the Amazing Race we bond and connect in such a genuine manner, I leave every Amazing Race feeling so blessed to work where I work, with whom I work.
I am thankful for each and every Amazing Race and for the tireless organizers who selflessly put this together for us. John, the current spearhead of the race, said it best. We were sitting at the bar, and I was gushing how grateful I was to be able to get in the race after all, thanking him for his organization. John looked around the hall, soaking in the sight of his coworkers laughing and recapping the events of the day, and turned back to me. "This for me-- watching everyone together and positive, having a good time-- makes it all worth it."