The Sochi 2014 Winter  Olympics is in day five so there’s lots of talk in the media about what’s going on in the various Winter Olympic sports.  Yesterday I was listening to a local radio station, probably CBC Radio 1,  and I heard a someone ( sorry, didn’t catch the name) say that kids participating in sports and losing can teach kids valuable lessons. The speaker noted not everyone who participates in sports wins, in fact, the vast majority of people who participate in sports lose. He thought losing in sports could help kids learn how to deal with defeat. To be honest, I hadn’t considered participating and losing in sports a learning opportunity- other improving technique, strategy and trying harder. I did think about how losing in sports could teach kids something about entitlement: just because you participate in sports doesn’t entitled you to win.  I don’t think the trend to not keeping score when kids participate in sports and thereby not have winners and losers is especially helpful.  What does it teach kids?  How does that prepare them for life?

I think additional learning opportunities present themselves when  kids participate in sports and lose: kids have the opportunity to develop their emotional intelligence, their  ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Emotional intelligence includes

  •  managing one’s own impulses
  • having empathy for others
  • communicating effectively
  • solving problems
  • using humor to build rapport
  • remaining optimistic in spite of stresses
  • managing change

What’s the big deal about high emotional intelligence? Why is emotional intelligence worth developing? Individuals with high emotional intelligence are able to make better choices for better consequences in life and at work and are better able to achieve a balance between work, home and recreational life.

As I write this post, I’m beginning to see the teaching opportunity I’d have and the learning opportunity my students would have when they  lose or for that matter when they win when participating in sports. I could help them develop their emotional intelligence. I could help my students who win become more empathetic toward my students who lose. I think I could help my students learn to manage their own impulses, remain optimistic in spite of losing, and so on.

Maybe other losses students experience could also be teaching and learning opportunities.  I guess the thing is someone has to be there when students experience losses and help them deal with their  losses in such a way as to strengthen their emotional intelligence. I want my students to be able to take something positive away from any losses they experience. I want my students to be able to make the best possible choices for the best possible outcomes in their lives.






Doing well in school and in life depends on more than a high IQ. I’ve taught students who have had a range of IQ’s. Not all my students who scored high on IQ tests did well in school. Not all adults I know who are really IQ “smart” have lived up to their potential either. High IQ is not sufficient for success in school or in life. I tried to help my students in my Learning Strategies Class to understand this and would teach a unit about characteristics of successful people.   We’d  read about  successful people to determine the  characteristics they shared. I’d like to thank Angela Lee Duckworth  (TED talk below) for sharing her research findings that grit is a significant predictor of success. She defines grit as the

passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Grit certainly could explain why some people who had the misfortune of being born into dire circumstances are able to rise above everything to do well in school and in life. (There I go again, wanting to challenge the definition of the good life by quoting Socrates’ and other philosophers’ definition of a good life- one of my last courses was a philosophy course and it’s still fresh in my mind.) Of course grit isn’t a sufficient condition for success either. It’s a necessary condition. Things such as having emotional support are necessary  for success as well.

When I ask my students what they think success is, many say having lots of money. The more money you have, the more successful you are. Sad.  But, that’s a whole other topic.  Even making lots of money usually takes grit.

j0433160When I was a student,  I loved being in the drama club and playing volleyball and basketball on the junior and senior  teams at my high school.  I wasn’t a star by any means, but I was a member of the drama club  and a member of the team which was important at that time.  Those extracurricular activities made my life almost bearable during my teen years. I wanted school to be more than just the 3 rs. I didn’t just want to be in a classroom living in my head during my school years.  I longed to be part of something more than a class.  eEtracurricular activities enabled me to satisfy my longing to part of something more than a class. When I became a teacher, I decided I would participate in extracurricular activities to enable students to benefit from extra curricular activities much  the way I had benefited all those years ago. Imagine my surprise when I realized that as a  teacher I was still  benefiting from participating in extra curricular activities. I recognize students participate in extracurricular activities for many reasons,  not just the reasons I had for participating . Extra curricular activities are important for students in many ways.

I’ll be honest here. Participating in extra curricular activities is important for me as a teacher because participating in extracurricular  activities  would often help make my classrooms more bearable .  Over the years some of my classes have been very challenging- to say the least. Many of my academically at risk students  were disengaged from school.  They were only at school because the law said they had to be at school.  I felt really great when I got to see students who were disengaged from the classroom become more and more engaged in the classroom because they were  began participating in extracurricular activities such as  basketball, football or yes even the knitting club.   I’ll admit  I got to see my academically at risk students in a different more positive light during extracurricular activities and my students got to see me in a different light too that resulted in a more positive  student/teacher relationship.  That is a very good thing.

When I think of school and the student body, I think of classrooms as the head of the student body and extracurricular activities as the heart of the student body.We need to balance the head and the heart of the student body.  Life is not only lived in the head, but it is also lived  in the heart.   Students’ school experience and yes even teachers’ school experience needs to  include developing and satisfying the needs of their heads and hearts,  and  when teachers are told not to participate in extracurricular activities for political reasons, students and teachers suffer.


Of course I want my students to be successful.  All teachers do.  But, I think the Ministry of Education and I have different ideas about what student success means.  I don’t think students are successful if they only develop intellectual skills. Earning a high school diploma may be a necessary condition for student success,  but it is  not a sufficient condition for  achieving student success.  Students aren’t  just one dimensional beings.  Students, like everyone else, are multidimensional. We all  have an intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimension that needs nurturing.   Students need help developing   intellectually, emotionally, and  spiritually (not in a religious sense but in the sense of dealing with alienation, with sense of identity,  ) . So Ministry of Education, what are you going to do to help meet the spiritual needs of students?





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