As of this writing, Simone Biles has won her third Olympic gold medal for U.S.A. and by now, I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone on this planet who has access to the Internet knows who Simone is. Though her popularity can be attributed largely to her amazing talent, with many experts saying she’s so far ahead of competitors that she only has herself to compete against, the 4 ft. 8 in. gymnast’s challenging past makes her an even more inspirational figure for many of us.
In the spirit of the 2016 Rio Olympics and the back-to-school season, here are 5 things teachers like you and I can learn from Simone Biles:
1. As teachers, we’re not competing against each other.
In Simone’s new Nike commercial, you can hear her mother say, “Don’t forget to be the best, Simone. Just be the best.” But in an interview, Simone said, her mom just encourages her to be the best Simone she can be. Her mother always tells her that she doesn’t have to compete against anybody, and that it’s just her and herself out there.
I think those are wise words that teachers like us also have to remember. So many times we’re so inclined to compare ourselves against other teachers – who has a Pinterest-worthy classroom, who has more behaved students, who has better activities, and so on and so forth. However, we have to remember, at the end of the day, we’re only the ones who can tell if we actually did our best in whatever we had to do for our students, for our schools, and our profession.
2. Our dedication to our profession will pay off.
Simone’s mother stated proudly in an interview that her daughter has never missed a day’s training, even when injured or exhausted.
I think many of us can recall going to school even if we weren’t feeling top-notch or finishing that lesson plan even if it’s already late at night, and we still had to wake up early to get the family ready for a new day. I’m not saying that we’re not dedicated enough if we took a day (or even a month) off because we were really, really sick, but know that all our efforts to be the best teacher that we can be will show through the quality of our work and our students’ achievements no matter how big or small. Our persistence will pay off. Our dedication will pay off.
3. The past shouldn’t dictate the future – we can make a difference!
Unlike many athletes who had ambitious but caring biological parents, Simone actually never knew who her father was since he abandoned his family when she’s still very small. She also barely knew her mother who had struggles with drugs and alcohol. Fortunately, she’s adopted by her maternal grandfather and his wife when she was five. She’s given the opportunity to develop her talent and become a world champion many times over.
As teachers, I think it’s important to remind ourselves that no matter what kind of backgrounds we have, we have the power to turn our lives around. We also have the opportunity to turn our students’ lives around! We have this wonderful chance to be of value to our students’ lives and ultimately the world. Let’s take it. Our students might have challenging backgrounds, but if we can be one of those people they can depend on for knowledge and encouragement among many other things that I’m sure we can give, we can be instrumental for bringing out the best in them.
4. We must never be afraid to shine.
Simone herself acknowledges that her ability to enjoy the spotlight sets her apart from other athletes. She admitted in an interview that she enjoys the attention and it inspires her to be more successful.
I believe each one of us has a special talent, a special skill, a special something that we can bring into the classroom, but sometimes, for some reason, we’re afraid that we’ll stand out. Maybe we don’t want to earn the ire of jealous colleagues or we’re worried that we’ll be given more challenging tasks. However, I think it’s truly hard not to shine if we’re really good, my friend! Let’s embrace the spotlight and do so humbly, knowing that we’re just doing our best in a job that we love and a career that makes a whole world of difference. How lucky can we get?
5. We can be “The One.”
By now, I think you would’ve heard of “The Biles” – Simone’s signature move. Aimee Lewis of BBC, describes the move as “a double backward somersault with the body fully extended, followed by a half-twist and a blind landing.” Also according to Lewis, at the peak of the move, Simone clears nearly twice her height, which is the equivalent of tumbling over a football goalpost.
Experts say no one had ever tried this move during a competition until Simone did so in 2013. William Sands, a former research director for USA Gymnastics, called the gymnast “a once-in-a-thousand-year athlete” and believes she is capable of doing more.
It would be really flattering to be a “a once-in-a-thousand teacher”, but we don’t really have to be that to change a student’s life. We just have to be “The One.” We can be that one teacher who truly cared for our students. We can be that one teacher who tried to help a troubled child. We can be that one teacher who has a ready smile and kind words for her kiddos. We can be that one teacher who always believes our students will succeed no matter what obstacles life throws their way. We can all have our special move. We’ll never know but a student or two might have yet to meet a teacher that they truly felt a connection with. Let that teacher be us.
What else do you think can be learned from Simone Biles and her story? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by!