CREATIVITY - Some events require a finite set of skills (long distance speed skating, ski jumping, bobsledding, etc.), but there are many events (slope style snowboarding, figure skating, free style skiing, etc.) in which you will hear words such as creativity and innovation all the time. It is the creativity that keeps the viewer engaged. I will be honest, I probably will never purchase tickets to an ice-dancing show, but I watch it during the Olympics. Why? Because these athletes need to show a high level of creativity to set themselves apart from their competitors. I don't care what you are doing. If you are pushing the limits of creativity, you will get my attention. As teachers, we need to demonstrate our own efforts to be creative in what we do so that our students are empowered to be creative themselves. Too often we structure lessons and assignments in such a way that we get back 30 projects that look the same. We need to design our lessons and our assignments in a way that allow students to practice and demonstrate their creativity. At the most basic level, just embrace the root word: CREATE!
PASSION -There is no way these athletes would put in the time and effort for the Olympic games if they didn't have a passion for what they are doing. You can see it on their faces before, during, and after they compete. Even if snowboarders crash hard while trying to pull off their most difficult trick, they often will reach the bottom of the hill will a huge smile on their face. Why? They love what they do. I used to wonder why students don't get pumped up about learning about the Crusades or Renaissance. Then it hit me. I have a passion for learning and teaching my classes, but the harsh reality is that my students don't always share this passion. When we realize this, our challenge changes. We need to find more ways to merge the passions of our students with the lessons they need to know. It is not always easy, and let's be honest, it may be impossible. However, we need to try.
ACCEPTING FAILURE - Bode Miller is competing in his fifth Olympic games this winter. He has lost more races than he has won. Basically, he has failed...a lot. This is a theme that echoes throughout the Olympic village. There are many ways to say it, but we need to allow kids to fail. We need to encourage them to take some chances and learn from the experience when it doesn't go according to plan. We need to support them when they fail too. Without encouragement, failure can be fatal to the productive process. As teachers we also can't be afraid to fail. Over the past two years I have taken more risks as a teacher than I did in my first 8 years. I truly believe I have grown as a teacher much more in those two years and my classes will be better off for it. If you haven't failed lately, you probably haven't been looking to improve either. Go ahead, try something new...take a risk.
There are many other lessons that we can take from the Olympics. I hope you take some time to take in the experience and learn a few lessons of your own.