Where's the Celebration?
February 23, 2015 at 8:21 PM
I’m still having trouble reconciling all the hoopla and public misery over the Seahawks’ Super Bowl loss for my hometown, Seattle. The fact is that our team played a great game and had a wonderful season. I’m reminded of our national obsession of winning at all costs, not just in sports but also in education. The prize goes to the top scorer, the highest number, and all the steady good work that occurred before the high stakes game or test counts for little. Something is very wrong with that scenario.
What if Seattle had a celebration anyway for our deflated team? What if people gathered and cheered and said, “Thank you. We’re proud of you even though you lost.” Wouldn’t that have been something? It would have said to the coach and team members and the country, “You played your heart out. You did you best. We admire and respect your talents.” Instead, our city’s message was, “You disappointed us. You don’t deserve a celebration. Better luck next time.” Exactly the message we give to schools when their test scores don’t measure up. No matter that excellent teaching may be going on under the most difficult of circumstances. Only the top number matters.
We could all take a lesson from the dignity and decency of Coach Pete Carroll. He accepted full responsibility for the Seahawks’ loss and did not berate the team in any way. He stayed true to character, appreciating their spirited team effort and vowing to learn from his “mistake” and do better next time. He has created a team that has heart and soul. They care about each other, play with and for each other, and do so with relentless effort every time. That’s why they will all heal and triumph. Amid the crisis, the team’s leader has been transparent, available to answer questions, and has faced the media and his team with honesty, hope and resilience. Like all great leaders, he will continue to motivate and inspire his team and earn their trust.
And there’s this. What if Pete Carroll’s final call wasn’t a wrong call? Surely, if the Seahawks had scored that final touchdown, the coach’s call would have been seen as perfect. The fact is that we—coaches, educators, most of us—make the best decisions we can given all the information, expertise, and experience we hold. Sometimes, even a “right” decision can yield an unsatisfactory result. Luck, randomness and unforeseen circumstances can sometimes influence an outcome that otherwise would have been predictably successful. It’s as true for us in education as it is for football. Let’s disrupt the status quo and not just measure and value the final number. Let us appreciate and celebrate the ongoing effort, perseverance, skill, and grit of our hard working students and teachers. True champions are more than the highest scorers.
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