Olympic athletes are given a very tough time, excruciatingly tough at times. But every day, they get up and train to be better, everyday they reflect on their progress and push themselves to become better, faster, stronger. From first place to last place, every athlete that takes part has striven for perfection; to perform at the highest standard they are capable of.
As teachers we need to be designing learning which give students the opportunities to make students better, faster, stronger. We also need to find ways to support, encourage and at times make them pretty uncomfortable to move students from the also-rans of this planet to becoming the best they can be.
Victoria Pendelton has one more race before she bows out of cycling. After all the pain and rigmarole of training day after day, week after week, year and year, she can look back on her Cycling career knowing that she has done her best on the biggest stage. How many of the students we teach leave school with the same sense of satisfaction as her? I have a feeling it wouldn’t be that many.
We need to get our students to consider that each year is their ‘biggest stage’ and that training to be the best they can be is worth every single ounce of passion they can draw upon.
The crowds have been one of the most amazing ingredients which has created such an incredible atmosphere at the London 2012 Olympics. The rowers have commented it’s made them push that little bit more than they ever felt they could, the athletes have certainly be spurred on by the fervent crowd, the cyclists have been breaking record after record in the ‘pringle’ thrusted forward by the passionate cauldron .
It can certainly be said that having an audience really encourages you to push yourself that little bit harder. How often do your students have an audience of more than one for their efforts? How often do they have a crowd of passionate people recognising their search for excellence? As I have wrote in previous posts, my ambition for the next academic year is to recognise students in their search for excellence in ways which I hope will give them their ‘Olympic moment’ to help students recognise the importance of the quest for excellence and to push them further forward.
I’m not advocating that every maths exercise book being placed in a guilt frame nor an English essay should be read in a national newspaper, but when something really is the best that they can do right now, how should we give them recognition and inspire our students to be even better?
High Tech High school in San Diego creates opportunities to have their work recognised publicly; through designing learning experiences which encourages excellence. Through professionally publishing books and exhibiting work they create ‘a culture that values beautiful work’. It has seen students become highly motivated knowing that they have an audience; students strive for perfection recognising that their work has purpose and value.
All too often in schools, we ask students to do their best; all for it to be marked with a grade and a comment and given back or worse still, left in a cupboard somewhere as an example of a 5c. How does this allow students to revel in the purpose and value of learning? How does this entice them to strive for better? If a red pen tick and a grade is how we respond to their efforts, do we need to reflect on what we are teaching students and look at crafting learning opportunities which recognise the value of their work in a more profound manner?
If we want students to make an ‘Olympic effort’ of their time at school, we need to place a huge emphasis on what we see as excellence in our subjects, in our learners, in our schools. We also need to back those who are part of the race with as much encouragement and challenge as we can throw at them. We also need to create those podium moments to recognise students when they begin to reach their potential.
In September, I want that first week of lessons to demonstrate to students the potential they have to become brilliant through an extraordinary level of commitment, determination and resilience. Is that too much to ask?