Sunday, August 7, 2016

Summer Olympics and Equity

I've been thinking a lot lately about equity. After my experiences this summer I feel even more committed to make sure that every student has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential, no matter what prior knowledge or skills they have when they walk through the door on the first day. My head is full of ideas with varying levels of possibility.

And now a little background information that I'll tie in later...

My younger son, Keaton, is a gymnast. This is not news to anyone who knows me because I am unabashedly proud of him. He's competed for two years, and he can do things that I don't think the human body should be able to do. He is ridiculously strong. When I watch him work out it makes my stomach hurt. He's at the gym three times a week for three hours at a time, all year long. He loves to practice and compete. He loves when he does well, and he's even more excited when his teammates do well. I know I'm biased, but he's a great kid. 

Enter the Summer Olympics. It occurred to me for the first time that people all over the world are watching Keaton's sport and that this is unique - something that happens only every four years. These incredible athletes are getting worldwide attention as I post this. Occasionally you can see women gymnasts competing on an obscure channel on a Saturday afternoon, but I don't know that I've ever stumbled upon men's gymnastics while flipping channels. 

In contrast, my basketball and football-playing older son watches his sports played on television constantly. These sports are always on (even if in the summer it's Canadian football). I bet you can name multiple basketball and football players off the top of your head. Can you name any male gymnasts? Could you before last week? 

And so I've found a new love and appreciation for the Olympics. The excitement and joy on Keaton's face when he watches gymnastics on prime time television is such a beautiful thing. I imagine he feels part of something bigger. More significant. Important. Like the collective gymnastics community has fans!

Back to equity (here's the connection I promised). Do our students see themselves in the examples we show them? Do we celebrate scientists and authors and historians who represent all of our students? Women and men? People of all races and religions? Can you call them by name like a true "fan"?

I've always known this is important, but tonight in my living room I experienced why. Chances are that my son won't compete in the Olympics, but he sees these athletes and his eyes sparkle. In the world of sports, he belongs. 

It's possibility. It's seeing yourself as whatever you can dream of and are willing to work hard for. That's a gift we must give our students.