Parallels drawn between learning and sport
With the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo mere weeks away, Brookham School headteacher Sophie Baber has drawn parallels between top-level sport and learning.
While the pupils at Highfield and Brookham Schools are in the final throes of the academic year, the Olympic athletes are making final preparations for the start of the Games in Japan on July 23 while the Paralympians get under way a month later on August 24.
And Mrs Baber knows the correct mindset is crucial to succeeding – both on the sports field and in the classroom.
“The people competing in these Olympic Games and Paralympic Games are truly inspirational figures and we will have the privilege of watching them show off their skills and talent and demonstrate their steely resolve to earn a place on the winners’ podium,” said Mrs Baber.
But what catapults these amazing individuals into legendary status is not their innate ability or physical prowess – these attributes alone don’t make a winner. Putting in the hard graft, maintaining a singular focus and complete determination will be required to ensure they earn their gold medals.
"And there is much our children can learn from these individuals. By making the learning behaviours explicit to children, we give them the tools to go for gold no matter what the subject or focus."
Mrs Baber said that the vision of the Olympic movement “resonated” with the ethos of Highfield and Brookham Schools – specifically achieving personal best, unity in diversity, and connecting to tomorrow – adding that the key areas of perseverance, collaboration, failing and focus were of huge significance to pupils and athletes alike.
She said: “The understanding that practice does not make perfect but does instead make progress is an important notion. Ongoing training or practice is vital and children need to understand the importance of resilience, therefore not giving up when learning is hard.
“And no athlete can compete at the Olympics or Paralympics without a great team behind them. Children must understand the importance of listening to others; reflect on the information they are given and use that to inform their learning. At times this will mean working as part of a team, but they will simultaneously have to develop independence and the confidence to stand on the start line alone.”
Mrs Baber said that while failing sounds counterintuitive, even the greatest of Olympians have tasted defeat and experienced failure at many times during their lives.
While it is important to have a goal, if the winning or getting things right becomes the sole focus, children are setting themselves up to struggle
“A huge amount of upset can be caused if you constantly put yourself down when you lose and learning opportunities missed if wins are celebrated but not reflected upon. Children should be taught to make the most of the learning opportunities in every mistake and encouraged to review and improve their learning.”
Mrs Baber said that sport had “always been a passion of our schools” but that it was perhaps only in the past 12 months that we have truly come to appreciate why it is so important: the power it has to unite people and the importance it plays in developing physical and mental health.
“Learning, like top-level sport, is an ongoing challenge,” she said.
“At Highfield and Brookham, we aim for every child to feel driven by a sense of accomplishment. Success is putting your heart and soul into all you do, learning at every opportunity along the way. We celebrate mistakes as something wonderful, rather than being driven by the final outcome and simply reaching it without awareness. If children know the ‘how’ underpinning their learning as well as the ‘what’ in terms of the subject matter, they are able to replicate this time and time again, engendering a determination that will be with them for life.”