At a 5th and 6th grade track meet last spring, my school was responsible for coordinating the discus event. Saturday was a cold, cloudy, and windy day. It was one of those days where the temperature is 50 degrees, so you are expecting a reasonably cool spring day. However, when you step outside, the 30 MPH wind just cuts through your body and sends chills from your head to your feet. So I give all of the athletes who were competing and all of the parents who were cheering a lot of credit for participating in the meet.
5th and 6th grade boys and girls cannot throw the discus very far. There were even a few competitors who were stepping into the ring for the first time, having never thrown a discus before. One girl stepped in the ring, received some quick instruction on how to throw the discus, took her one practice throw, and then attempted her three “real” throws. The throws did not go far, maybe about 15-20 feet each. However, each throw was slightly better than the previous throw. When she stepped out of the ring I heard her father say, “Great job! You improved with each throw!”
I appreciate the focus of that parent. He did not compare his daughter to anyone else. Instead he encouraged her to compete against herself. I once heard a speaker talk about how we need to encourage our students to compete against themselves and not against others. By doing this, we are placing more of a focus on improvement for the individual student. Improvement is a goal that any student can reach. The same goes for our teachers. Improving instruction and relationships is goal that I would encourage each of my staff members to reach. Teachers that are improving mean that those teachers are learning, which is a great example for our students.
Image: Discus, Magnus Akselvoll, uploaded via Flickr February 25, 2011, Creative Commons LIcense