‘Anything is possible. It’s just hard work and graft.’ This was how Mo Farah put it to the BBC after just having won his second gold medal in the 5000 metres in a wonderful statement of expansive capability! Indeed the last fortnight has been filled with powerful stories of success as athletes have discovered different ways in which they are physically and mentally smart.
I was lucky and managed to extract tickets for women’s football, canoeing and rowing. And for much of the rest of the fortnight I found myself glued to the television watching sports I’d never or rarely seen before and marvelling at the spectacle. Perhaps inevitably it has got me wondering about what the Expansive Education Network (eedNET) and schools in general might learn from London 2012. Here are just a couple of musings.
Apply rowing rules to school tests?
Did you marvel at the barefaced cheek of the rowers? Instead of one final for 6 boats they had many ‘finals’. Final A, Final B, and so on. On the day my colleague Guy Claxton and I were there we witnessed six ‘finals’, with just three boats in the last race – Final F – tussling for places 31, 32 and 33. I am not sure what colour the ‘medals’ are for such lowly places, but certainly the rowers thought they were worth having. So, although you may have just watched the final in which gold was awarded to our men’s four or women’s double skulls, spectators at Dorney Wood were treated to many more finals!
33 boats. 33 children in many classes. Might this create real contests among small groups? Or would it default to the ancient notion of ranking children from the front of the class to the dunces at the back?
And another thing. Did you know what ‘reperchage’ meant before you watched rowing? (According to Wiktionary it’s a ‘heat in which the best competitors who have lost in a previous round compete for a place or places yet left in the next round’). Could this be a way of giving more children a second real chance? Is it the rowing equivalent of coursework? What could schools learn from the idea?
Get a bit of what Usain Bolt has
When Bolt retained his two sprint gold medals, we marvelled. (Personally I love the fact that he accomplished this feat after having spent the previous evening entertaining the Swedish women’s hand-ball team rather than earnestly scanning the times of his competitors. But I digress.)
The really interesting thing is how the tiny country of Jamaica consistently thrashes the rest of the world at sprinting. A few commentators reminded us that sprinting is almost akin to a national sport (along with cricket).
And that’s surely the clue. It’s all about the culture. All Jamaican kids aspire to be Usain Bolt and there are lots of little Bolts in every school. Sprinting really counts. Sprinters are really valued.
The British Bolt is, maybe, Jessica Ennis, a supreme role model for multiple sporting intelligence, deliberate practice and poetry in motion.
Jessica is an expansive role model she is for us all.
So how could we make the kinds of resilience and creativity Ennis showed to triumph in the heptathlon the must-have attribute in every classroom?