I will begin this post by stating an obvious point:
Usain Bolt is an amazing sprinter.
As a runner who (more and more) plods through training runs and marathons, I am in awe of Usain Bolt’s speed, grace, and magnificence.
I read a wonderful passage about Usain Bolt by sportswriter Joe Posnanski which explained, in part, why he is such a mesmerizing as a runner. Bolt’s greatness, now demonstrated across three Olympics, is a joy to behold. Usain Bolt is other worldly.
Usain Bolt might be the greatest sprinter of all time. I love watching superstars dominate in their sport.
In Mr. Posnanski’s piece, he explains how Bolt’s running is more than just, well, running. He equates watching Usian Bolt to seeing magic. When we watch a person perform at the highest levels in their field, we are watching more than just a performance. We are watching something truly special.
Mr. Posnanski states “All Bolt does is run- and that is good enough.” He is correct.
I was so struck by Mr. Posnanski’s piece that I forwarded it to my teaching staff stating in part, All You Do Is Teach.” I equated the work the teachers do on a daily basis to Bolt’s. Teachers have a way of creating their own magic on a daily basis. One might say that I was engaging in hyperbole, but I would disagree. I truly believe that I am the principal of the greatest staff of teachers ever assembled. The heart, the passion, the skill levels, and the dedication of the staff at my school is unparalleled.
I truly believe that in each of their classrooms, and in their own unique ways, the teachers bring instruction to a new level. As the principal, I am the one who is fortunate enough to get to witness this greatness on a daily basis. (Unfortunately, great teaching isn’t placed in prime time on any television networks.)
A number of the teachers responded positively to the e-mail I sent which furthered the discussions about great teaching, great running, and excellence in general.
It was in one of these discussions that something else hit me – like a Bolt.
As great as Usain Bolt is, as much as he dominates all of these running events, there is something more about him that captures my, and the public’s, attention.
Usain Bolt visibly and unapologetically shows and demonstrates that he loves his sport.
Usain Bolt makes it very clear that he loves what he does.
As someone who follows running, the contrast between Bolt and other runners is striking. Especially in competition, runners tend to have one of two facial expressions. These are either (1) the “jelly face” of a runner trying to be relaxed as he or she pushes through the pain and exhaustion or (2) the “steel face” of the determined warrior giving his or her all in pursuit of excellence.
These are the looks of the competitive runner. At every level.
Except… Usain Bolt.
As Usain Bolt runs, as Usain Bolt competes, as Usain Bolt battles…he smiles.
One only had to watch his semi-final race in the 200m on Wednesday night (August 18). As Bolt was locked in a close battle with his friend Andre DeGrasse, in one of the closest races I ever saw Usain Bolt engaged in, as they sprinted, feverishly, to the finish, Bolt looked at DeGrasse and smiled.
He smiled! He pointed his finger at his friend and seemingly said, “No no, I am the fastest.”
He did while he was running. He did this while he was competing. He did this while he was winning the 200m Semi-Final in the Olympic Games.
It is one thing to smile when you play in an over-the-hill men’s softball league. Sure, we’re all supposed to play for fun. It’s entirely different to be smiling when competing against, and defeating, the very best athletes in the world.
A smile says a lot to me. It speaks volumes. It is that smile, that joy, that exuberance, that makes Usain Bolt special. He is more than a great athlete; he is a virtuoso who loves his craft. Usain Bolt so enjoys his profession that he smiles as he works to the very best of his abilities.
This is why Usain Bolt is such an attraction. It is a main reason why his races are so compelling. We take joy in watching others who are the best, but we take special joy in watching the greats who visibly and unapologetically enjoy the competition and that greatness.
I discussed these ideas with the teacher and then became reflective about my own practice.
I LOVE my job. I love inspiring teachers. I love innovation. I love creativity. I love kids. I love making children smile. I love having a happy school. I love working to create an environment where children are valued, cherished, respected…and loved. I love learning. I love seeing kids learn. I love talking with parents. I love solving dilemmas.
On many days I feel like I have the greatest job in the world. (Every day I know that I have the greatest school in the world.)
People tell me that I smile a lot. I hope I do. But more, I hope that when people see me at work, talking with children, working with teachers, instructing, supervision, conversing, helping others…that they see the same joy in me that the world sees in Usain Bolt as he runs.
I want others to know that I am just as happy, just as thrilled in my work, as Usain Bolt is in his.
Usain Bolt strives to be the greatest sprinter in the world.
I strive to be the greatest educational leader.
While Bolt most often succeeds, I’m not quite sure how I stack up. I just hope that as I compete, as I work to be my best, that the joy and the pride and the satisfaction that I take from my responsibilities shows as much on my face as those same characteristics are reflected by Usain Bolt.
Further it is my hope that every student and every parent sees this same look of positive happy determination on the faces of all the teachers at the school. (And I know they do.)
When we are observed enjoying giving our very best, we create an environment that allows children to be their best. If you want children to be happy at school, surround them with happy teachers.
Usain’s exuberance and joy hit me like a bolt.
I hope that my enthusiasm and my quest for excellence are reflected in the smiles that I wear each day.