I love the Olympic Games. There is nothing better than watching someone achieve their personal best, whether it results in a medal or not. In my mind’s eye, they are all winners. To be able to represent your country at the games must evoke feelings like no other. You become part of something much greater. Part of a rich history and tapestry of what embodies the potential for harmony and good sportsmanship. It is a visual reminder that you have reached the pinnacle of your sport. It is tangible. It is also the sum total of years of learning, training, mentoring, coaching, success and failure, trials and tribulations. It is a reminder that champions are made through years of practice. They are intrinsically motivated. They set a variety of goals. They get timely and relevant feedback. They learn from their mistakes. They are surrounded by a team of people willing the good in them. All of those elements are crucial to their success. They don’t achieve it with last minute training or an inconsistent approach. It’s methodical and persistent. They go through periods of self-doubt and self-belief. What distinguishes them from others is that they never, ever, ever give up.
I believe the same can be said for teaching and learning. As students, we have to be aware of our strengths and our weaknesses. We have to find ways of overcoming weaknesses in order to recognise just how far we can go. We take advice from a variety of people and have our support network, there to keep us on track or to share a kind word when we need it.
As teachers, we are no different. Those who are new to the profession are given the opportunity to soar when they are connected with experienced, passionate and great teachers, who give them the time to reflect on their practice and offer the kind word or guidance when needed.
As teachers, we mentor our students and our peers on a daily basis. Unlike the tangible awards that athletes get when they compete, we rarely get an opportunity to see what our students do, post school. The intangible aspect of teaching means there is no end goal. The life of a student is transformed when they leave school. How they use their education is determined by many factors. As teachers we have to be confident in knowing our feedback and advice was timely, that we utilised the best pedagogy and engaged them in our classrooms. As teachers we know that we aren’t working towards any kind of olympic meet, rather we are preparing our students for life beyond compulsory schooling. We implore our students to believe in themselves and we do this by never, ever giving up on them. We show them that there are many paths that can be taken in life and that they should not measure themselves by their defeats or trials only. They should temper their self-criticism with an examination of their successes and achievements. As teachers, we make great mentors and coaches.