School is back! Perhaps…

Depending on where you live, you’re either looking forward to having your child back in school full-time, or your child is looking forward to another year of some version of school. In either case, those in the northern hemisphere are facing the start of school. And for those of you in the northern hemisphere, know that the schools in the southern hemisphere just finished winter break and are back in school as well. The previous blog discussed what you could be doing right now to help your child get ready for school, and the primary step is to encourage your boy to read.

The Olympics are the hot topic of the week – have your son read about the athletes who are competing in his favorite sport, or those who are representing his country. Ask him what kind of training is involved in preparation for success in that sport. I was fascinated to learn that one of the USA swimmers who lives in one of our northern states was swimming in a local pond this past winter because her indoor pool was closed for the pandemic. The water had to be close to freezing, so she just put on a wetsuit and plunged in. The result – she won several medals in Tokyo! The lesson you want your son to learn is that if you want to succeed, you must continue to train, and that’s true in everything that you do.

Another object lesson from the Olympics, true every time, but there seem to be more examples this year, is not ever to give up as you have no clue what is coming. Suni Lee has been second to Simone Biles with no expectation of being in the spotlight anytime soon and then … now, because Biles had to step aside, Lee wins the gold all-around in gymnastics and another athlete, MyKayla Skinner, who did not expect to be able to compete at all, gets silver on the vault. One week before the start of the games, one of the USA women in 3X3 basketball tested positive for the virus and Jackie Young, who was on vacation, got called up. She hopped on a plane, and 48 hours later was playing in the Olympics. Although Young had not practiced with the rest of the team, she’s one of the best players in women’s basketball, and the result was a gold medal for the USA. Skinner and Young did not expect to be competing, and none of them expected to win medals. However, they trained for their sport, and when an opportunity presented itself, they were ready to step in. That’s an extremely important lesson: be prepared, whether or not you think you’ll have the chance to compete.

Then there are athletes who are competing against all odds. For example, those who represent the IOC Olympic Refugee Team do not even have a country to support them, and yet they are competing. Scholarships to help them train were provided by the IOC, and most have been sponsored either by teams, or coaches, already going to the Olympics.

Here’s a study of Olympic athletes, and what they think are the top 10 factors helping them succeed, and the top 10 obstacles to their success. According to the athletes, the number one factor which led to their success was persistence. Of the top 10 obstacles, the one that bothered them the least was failure. Please remember that is not necessary for a student or an athlete to win in order to be successful. Listen to the interviews with the athletes after their competition – whether they win or lose, they are mostly concerned with learning from this performance to improve on their next performance.

So, what does this have to do with your son and school? Most students will have had some separation from school, or at least some change in school schedule. That will interfere with what they have learned, and they may find this coming year or coming semester hard. That’s no reason not to try. They should persist, keep trying, not letting failure or problems slow them down. Put on a mental wetsuit and plunge into the freezing pond. Run on the court and pick up the ball, even though they haven’t practiced in a month. Be confident in their skills, getting back in the game is all a matter of practice and dedication. If they don’t succeed, keep at it, figure out what it is they are having trouble with, and ask for help. If they have forgotten how to do math problems, they will not be the only one in their class. Look on YouTube for directions, or ask their teacher for assistance.

Help your child realize that success in school takes time, and takes effort. There is no shame in recognizing that you have trouble at anything you do, just keep at it. I failed French twice in high school, once in summer school with my father as my teacher. He recognized that while I could do math without opening the book, French was not something I was ever likely to do well in. When I got to university, I had to take a language again and this time, I was able to do much better …. Well, at least I passed! That experience helped me understand that failure is not the end of the world, it is simply information that you need to figure out in order to succeed.

And please, remember that success is not equal to winning. Success is making progress, doing better than you did before. That’s the real lesson from the Olympics, it’s all about making progress. This coming year, many children are likely to have trouble in school, and we all need to remember that the aim is progress.