In annual workshop, Haldane students consider ‘core’ beliefs

For more than a decade, seventh graders at Haldane Middle School have participated in an end-of-year workshop in which they write an essay about their core beliefs.

Known as This We Believe, it is inspired by This I Believe, a National Public Radio show that in turn was inspired by an Edward R. Murrow radio broadcast from the 1950s.

Haldane teacher Danielle Pece, writing professor Kathy Curto and, in some years, this reporter, engage the students in discussion about the writing process and what a “core” belief could be. While working through several drafts, the students listen to recordings of writers of all ages reading This I Believe essays and discuss enhancing descriptions and honing ideas.

The essays are typically collected into a book that is given to each participant.

Most important, year after year, the students listen to each other’s work, often discovering things they didn’t know about each other despite spending eight years as classmates in a small school. There is always empathy displayed and there are always surprises.

Noting that seventh graders are “full of strong opinions — in a great way,” Pece says she hopes the exercise “dusts off what’s already there and has great meaning for them — going into eighth grade, they have that maturity level to be introspective.”

With permission from the authors, Pece shared two essays: “Hallways,” by Leo O’Neil, and “Practice Makes Progress,” by Kirra McCoy.


By Leo O’Neil

I believe in the power of hallways. Because when you are stuffed into a hallway with some of your best friends, eating lunch after a performance, you will have fun.

In order to truly encompass hallways, you must first shove 10 to 14 teenagers into a tiny hallway, with enough junk food to create an entire buffet. That’s what the entirety of dressing room eight and nine had to do, when the original hallway wasn’t big enough to fit us to all eat lunch together.

It all started when Clara G. invited me to eat lunch with her, and then all the others came piling in, forcing us to move, squish and contort to fit everyone into another hallway. We had to optimize the space, so we were sitting with our backs against the wall, our knees pulled close to our chests, craning our necks to make sure that the old crumbing insulation in the ceiling wasn’t about to come crashing down on our glittery, itchy costumes that were covered by our dads’ old flannels. Some of us were eating Panera, but most of us were mooching off others’ snacks.

And then the M&Ms were brought out. I tip-toed down the hallway, carefully stepping over ankles and enough snacks to feed an entire country, giving out M&Ms while people tried to convince me that they were the best and deserved extra M&Ms.

And then it happened. Right as I was getting back to my spot, someone tripped over Lila’s Panera Mac and Cheese. Only a little bit spilled onto the hard concrete floor, but that cold, hours-old Mac and Cheese was precious.

That hallway was the only salvation from the hovering stage moms and the screaming little kids. We listened to Taylor Swift, shared snacks, complained about entitled teachers, and prayed to the dance gods that we would nail our turns in the next show.

Hallways brought us closer, close enough to smell the mix of sweat and deodorant of the person next to us. But also in ways you can’t even imagine. I believe in the power of hallways.

Practice Makes Progress

By Kirra McCoy

Now that the competition rips have healed, sprained ankles, bruised shoulders, skinned legs, and jammed fingers have patched over, I am left with the scars of this season. Endless hours of practice, full sets over and over and over again until you feel numb and can’t lift your arms, late night dinners, early morning meets, and way too many Advils later we are here, off season. Off season is a funny thing, because when you’re a gymnast there really is no “off”.

Endless hours of practice still feel endless and I’m really starting to think: full sets turn into pushup walks, rope climbs and leg lifts, or any other conditioning you could possibly think of, late night dinners are still late, early morning meets turn into morning conditioning, and Advils are still keeping me alive. Through the season you learn to not let 7.85 stop you and to celebrate when you get a 9.5. Throughout your time as a gymnast, you get shown your progress through new skills, scores, goals or any other applicable unit of measurement.

Today, June 9th, marks the end of the two weeks of conditioning testing. We get in groups and do various workouts for on minute. Then we count the amount we did and put them on a sheet. The first summer on the team I was 10 years old, practicing with girls that tower over me and surpass me in every shape and form. I couldn’t climb the rope, do leg lifts, or complete more than five good pushups. Now, the failed rope attempts turn into two climbs without legs, no leg lifts turn into 30, and push-ups turn into 35. The weeks of conditioning testing leave you breathless, wishing today was the day you decided to fake sick.

During meet season the pressure is on. Practice is swift, powerful, like a well-oiled machine. Girls split up into groups and work routines over again and again. I’ve always struggled with connecting my skills on bars. I can visualize myself doing it, but it never works out.

My arms were throbbing from the countless push-ups I did because of my mistakes. Longhang pullovers start to leave oblongular bruises on the tops of my thighs. The blood from my rips leaves bold red stains on the tape tightly wrapped on my palms. I apply my chalk over the top of the bruises left on my thighs to help prevent more. Just one more. I need one more. Finally, my coaches tell me to not overwork myself and get burned out for states, so they benched me from bars that day.

Saturday, the day of states. I walked into the athletic hall at some community college and the smell of sweat and hairspray overwhelmed my nostrils. Warmup is fast and we all head to our first event. Bars. I’m first. My whole team watches as I stand trembling on the mat before the bars. Waiting for the judges to salute me. They call my name. Showtime. Each movement is precisely performed, one small slip of my finger in the wrong place and I rip off the bar. The pressure is on. Somehow I connected it. Somehow it works. Somehow, I got a 9.35. Somehow I placed third.

Standing on the podium. Watching all of my teammates cheer me on reminds me of why I chose gymnastics. Why I stuck with it throughout the endless hours of conditioning, oversplits, and full sets. How gymnastics has not only taught me how to dry swallow Advils or stall my coaches from conditioning, but taught me about progress, not perfection. How through all this chaos I’ve found peace. I do believe that practice makes progress.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Rooney has been writing for The Current since its founding in 2010. A playwright, she has lived in Cold Spring since 1999. She is a graduate of Binghamton University, where she majored in history. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: Arts