As the Summer 2016 Olympics begin much of the world will be following the feats of incredibly talented athletes as they strive for peak performance. Announcers will share profiles of athletes and expound on the life lessons we can take from these games. As with everything I experience, I often see it through the lens of an educator and the Olympics will be no different!
So what can the Olympics do to enhance our teaching? I guess that is in the eye of the beholder, but for me I’ll be watching for inspiration and insights that will transfer beyond these events. So here is what I’ll be looking for:
Teamwork– even with individual events, no athlete makes it to the Olympics alone. They are part of a team and there are so many support personnel who help them to make their dreams come true. We teachers are all a part of a larger team, even on those days when we feel most alone. We couldn’t do what we do without a whole team including administrators, ed techs, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, etc. And every one of the athletes has at least one coach. These coaches don’t just tell athletes what to do to win, they have strategies, inspiration, and feedback that helps pull the best out of them. I believe teachers deserve coaches, too. We should never feel like we have to go it alone.
Perspective-I listened to an interesting podcast recently about the perspective of medal winners in the Olympics. Naturally gold medal winners are the happiest, but you would think silver medal winners would be next. Wrong. It’s actually the bronze medal winners who are happier. Turns out their perspective makes them more grateful. Silver medalists compare themselves to gold medalists and think about what could have been. Bronze medalists compare themselves to non-medal winners and feel more fortunate. Our perspective can certain impact our experiences in life. Constantly comparing ourselves to other teachers, classrooms, schools, etc. can erode our happiness. Focusing on the ‘gift’ of what IS without the filters of comparison can provide us a perspective of greater happiness.
Goals-These athletes all set daily, weekly, monthly, lifetime goals and have plans to achieve them. They don’t plod along with hope and a prayer. They approach roadblocks strategically and determinedly. They all have setbacks. They all fail at some point. I want to think about what goals do I want to set for myself this year. Not goals for evaluation or administration, but personal goals to achieve MY peak performance this year. Athletes make it look easy-but it’s not. As I watch replays of victories or medal ceremonies I want to remember how much goal-oriented work went into helping those athletes succeed and take inspiration for those times that the going gets tough.
Failure– more athletes will fail at these Olympics than will win. Very few of those athletes will quit. Many athletes speak of the losses that taught them more than the wins. Often they credit their toughest losses as being their greatest inspirations. I will enjoy the victories of the winners, but I will also watch how the other athletes handle their setbacks, disappointments, and losses and take inspiration from their courage and solace in knowing that even the most elite competitors will fail and move on.
Celebration-Win or lose, the Olympians all participate in celebrations-did you see the joy in that opening ceremony? They sincerely appreciate the commitment and effort of their fellow athletes and feel a part of something larger than themselves. Many schools celebrate student accomplishments, but the schools that I work in with the best morale have always taken time to celebrate the effort and accomplishments of staff as well. As I enjoy the Olympics I will be reflecting on those teachers and staff around me who are working on personal or professional goals and contemplate ways to celebrate their efforts, progress, and achievements.
I’m sure as the games progress I will pull more inspiration and insights. I will remember how much effort and sacrifice went into preparing for that moment in the spotlight for each and every athlete, whether they win or lose. I’ll enjoy the personal profiles and courageous bios, remembering each ‘star’ was once (and some still are) a child who was nurtured and guided to this achievement.
I’d love to hear what lessons others may glean from these games.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
What’s On My Book Radar?
Don’t let the title scare you off. It is integral to the story in a way you might not have imagined. I am putting this book on a MUST READ list. A story of three friends during their senior year in rural America (TN) who are contemplating what the future holds for them and are struggling with the limitations their past may have on that. Incredibly well written- I couldn’t put it down! An amazing book that can help young people think about their own personal identities as they see Dill, Travis, and Amelia examine theirs and ask “Who am I?” This book will make you feel so many emotions and hopefully encourage empathy for those around us who are marginalized or ‘discarded’. The Serpent King will be on many award lists this year!