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The Olympic Spirit: Go for the Gold

Joined: 2/16/2014
Posts: 6
The Olympic Spirit: Go for the Gold

"How many can I miss and pass?” screamed a rambunctious fourth-grader as the class hunkered down to take a four hour writing assessment early one Monday morning.

Those words, unbeknownst to the nine-year old, were like an arrow that pierced my heart; words no teacher desires to hear. In that moment, the spirit of an Olympian rose up in me as I stopped the test and gave the class what I like to call “a little pep talk” or in other words, a lecture.

I first told the young man that he could not miss any questions. He was expected to go for 100% on the test. To help the students understand this concept I used the analogy of an Olympic athlete. The bright and curious eyes looked eagerly at me as I explained to them that athletes competing in the Olympics did so with hopes and dreams of winning the gold medal. None of the athletes competed for the bronze or silver medals – they all went for the gold. My expectation, moreover, was that they all did their very best on the test.

As they continued the test, I thought about the origin of those low expectations. Did our children really understand the determination, hard-work and diligence that it took in competing in the Olympics, or even in life? How could I instill the “go for the gold” mentality in a group of children whose only thought for the future was lunch and recess?

With those thoughts and challenges in mind, I spent the rest of the week motivating students with the “go for the gold” mantra. We went for the gold in writing and creating sentences. Those who achieved the gold medal on their spelling test were celebrated. I looked for gold medal behavior in the groups during independent work. Students were encouraged to give gold medal answers; those with insight and thought put into them. I even created a “Go for the Gold” poster that students could sign to record their achievements.

In our test driven culture, we have created both a generation of children who are overly stressed and underprepared for the real world. Most parents fail to realize that the passing criteria for many state assessments are well under seventy percent. In fact, some of the passing criteria can be as low as fifty percent in a certain subject area. Perhaps as simply a “substitute teacher” I should accept the status quo and move on. But, I cannot. You see, I have a “go for the gold” mentality that will not be stopped by what’s on my name badge.

As parents, teachers, principals and those who are advocates for children, we must develop an Olympian spirit in each one of our students. It is a spirit and drive that comes from within. It a spirit that must be established in the home and cultivated in the schools. Don’t settle for anything less – go for the gold!

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Comment by warren

Joined: 6/22/2011
Posts: 293
I can't award you a gold, silver or bronze medal, but I can say that I loved your essay. Thank you for finding Stage of Life.
Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2014 2:12:24 PM
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