We reached out to schools in Beijing to ask who was making an impact on their school communities. Our terms were loose, as we were curious about individuals who made a difference in leadership, community, and charity. We don’t feel like someone necessarily has to contribute to charity to be a community star, as sometimes a great, reliable friend in a school community can make just as much of an impact. Each of these stories is special, and we’re so proud to have had the chance to talk with these students and teachers.
Elaine Kinlough, The International Montessori School of Beijing
“Walk don’t run!” is a phrase teachers often use. But Elaine Kinlough, Lead Teacher for Grade 5 and 6 and Academic Head of Elementary The International Montessori School of Beijing (MSB), is actively encouraging her students to run. She founded MSB Runners, which attracts around twenty students to its Wednesday morning sessions, and has raised money for several charities including The Maasai Girl’s Education Project and Migrant Children’s Foundation through fun runs.We asked what motivated her to start the group.
“Basically I started the group because I’m a runner, and I wanted to spread the love of running to the students. I started out running marathons and road races. But everybody was too focused on their times, and where they finished. So I took up ultra-trail running. The focus there is on nature; it’s more social, more of a community. For me it’s my meditation. All my thinking is done when I run.”
Kinlough runs astonishing distances in ultra-trail races: 50km, or even 100km. And some of her students are beginning to get a taste for longer runs too.
“There are a couple of children who are really keen and eager. Every Friday morning six or seven children run a 5km loop before school. They’re fast too; they all run it in under 30 minutes.”
Most of the runners though join in a gentler and more sociable one or two kilometers, where Kinlough teaches them running technique. But community is more important than competition.
“A lot of parents have started to join in too… and some dogs!” Kinlough told me. “Some alums come back to run. It’s created a real community in the morning time. One parent told me it gives him an opportunity to bond with his son.”
Running might be the simplest and most accessible of all sports, Kinlough said. “There’s no barrier to entry, no special equipment needed. You just put your trainers on and show up to school early.”
Despite that 7am start, the students are genuinely enthusiastic. “None of the children are ever pressured,” Kinlough said, “it’s a real want that’s coming from them. In fact they pester me to make sure the group keeps meeting. For a couple of children it’s really made a difference, the realization that running is important for them. They will go on to be very good runners and have a love of running.”
Currently the runs are open to children in Grades 4 to 6, but Kinlough said she “would love to bring it down to the lower grades.”
“So many parents come to me and say ‘my children want to run, they see the older children run.’ I’m working with the Student Council to have a monthly Friday morning run, and open it to the whole school community, students, teachers, and parents.
“It’s a great feeling when we see families running together.”
Photo courtesy of MSB
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