This is the track and field schedule twitter.com/6band6d/status…
— Miss B & Miss D (@6band6d) May 16, 2013
Yesterday was Track and Field Day at our school, and since only students from Grades 3-8 compete, yesterday was the first time that I was involved in this special day. My memories of Track and Field go back to when I was a child, and based on my experiences, I figured that yesterday was mostly about demonstrating athletic skills. The strongest and the fastest students would move into the finals, and the weakest and the slowest students would hopefully just enjoy the outdoors. From what I saw from my “timing post” though, yesterday’s Track and Field Day was about so much more than demonstrating skill: it was about building character.
My view changed all within the first couple of races. In one of the heats, there were six students, and two of them have autism. Their EAs spoke to them about how the race works, and then all six students got ready to compete. Even though the two students with autism were not winning the race, they had a huge cheering section of teachers and students encouraging them to keep on running. When one of these two students chose to walk half of the way, instead of leading her off of the track and starting the next race, she had people walking alongside her so that she could finish the race too. Awesome!
Then I noticed one of junior students that I know standing off to the side with his mom. He was incredibly upset. Knowing that he’s very athletic and incredibly competitive, I figured that he did not do as well in his first race as he had hoped. A few minutes after I saw him, I noticed that his brother was competing in a race. Despite how upset this older student felt about his own scores, he stood on the sidelines, cheered his little brother on, and watched him move up all the way to second place. The moment his little brother crossed the finish line, he ran up, gave him a hug, and congratulated him. Now that’s character.
In the afternoon, I watched many students in my class race. I have a huge number of very athletic and very competitive students, and in most of the races, they were competing against each other. Even though they all wanted to win, and some even pushed themselves to cross the finish line just in front of their friends, the moment that they finished, they ran up, gave each other a hug, and congratulated each other on a job well done. They were genuine and kind, and win or lose, they showed character.
And then I watched an older student with autism running his first races today. For all of his races, he had one of his friends running beside him. In the last race, his friend was also competing. Even though this other student wanted his best personal time, as he ran around the track, he continually slowed down, turned around, looked back, and ensured that this other boy was running too. These actions may have prevented this student from getting in the finals, but they showed his incredible character.
All day long, the track sidelines were full of students cheering each other on, encouraging some more reluctant students to compete, and celebrating in all successes (be it even finishing a race that they didn’t think they could run) instead of just being the best. A special thank you to the phys-ed teachers for coordinating all of the events yesterday and to the parents for coming out and supporting all of their children yesterday. Track and Field Day was like a community event, and I loved being a part of that community!
What examples of “good character” do you notice in your school? How do we get all students to demonstrate this “good character” even when it’s difficult to do? I love all of the examples of “good character” that I saw yesterday, but I’m now thinking about how what I saw came to be, and how we can bring about this change in everyone. Thoughts?