Sport has always meant a lot to me. It has been my most influential source of values, and has greatly determined the kind of person and teacher I am. When I was a young girl, pools were my world as I was an agonist swimmer. I used to train four times a week, sometimes even twice a day (before and after going to school) plus the stress of week-end competitions. However hard, I never complained, or felt like “sinking” under the burden of school or sport effort. Once I set my goals, the only thing I had in mind was to do anything it was in my power to crush my limits, improve my times and when eventually I did it, well, the satisfaction was immense and that moment of bliss unforgettable. It is in that moment that everything becomes meaningful and rewarding and you are eager to set the next goal.
This is how I have been brought up : only hard work and discipline will help you reach your goals and set new others, I know no other recipe that works. That’s why I often talk about sport in this blog, apart from celebrating my husband’s legendary enterprises, of course :D, because I think that is a life lesson that can be easily applied to education with great success. The question is that nowadays, as far as I can see, the new generations don’t seem so focused on their future, hence if you just study for your sense of duty, the reaching of good grades is no longer enough as motivation. That’s why school effort is too often felt like frustrating and homework worthless or unnecessary. If you can’t figure out what your objectives are, whatever you are asked to do is obviously pointless, it is much better to spend your precious time playing with a video game trying to set the highest score.It is a goal after all.
One day I came up with the idea to divide my younger students of English language in two groups, or better in two teams and gave them the glorious names of universities like Oxford and Cambridge, for example. I appointed a team leader for each group, and told them that every grade,every activity would have been transformed into points to be added day after day. At the end of the school year, there would have been a big party to celebrate the winning team with cups, medals, diplomas and a happy summer of course. I had decided to turn myself into a teacher referee, but I soon understood that I had gained an immense power.
The trap is that everybody wants to win, and once you accept to be part of a team you are no longer responsible for yourself, but for the team as well. If you miss one test, for example, your team will score less and you might be decisive for the final defeat. Everybody wants to be popular, therefore I soon noticed that nobody skipped tests any longer ( I had cunningly explained that even one single point could have been essential for the final victory), but above all everybody wanted to take part in the competitions/tests I did every day. They could be the heroes of the day. Effort had become fun.
They felt the joy of reward and they didn’t even realise they were studying much more than they used to do before. Much more. They just needed a goal.
“If one does not know
To which port one is sailing,
No wind is favorable ”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca