Written by Marilyn Gwilliam – Principal, Papatoetoe Central School
When NZ swimming star Lauren Boyle met with outstanding success earlier in the year, our associate principal dropped her a line and invited her along to our school.
She said that she would love to come and recently she took time out from her intensive training schedule to speak at our weekly assembly.
We felt truly privileged to spend some time with one of our most successful swimmers. In 2 weeks of world class performances in August, she won 3 medals at the World Championships, followed by 2 gold and 2 silver in 5 days in the World Cup and a clutch of records in the process.
As you might anticipate, the theme of her talk was about drive, determination and character. Lauren started swimming when she was 5 years’ old and joined a swimming club when she was 8. She had several other hobbies as well, but when she turned 11, she had to decide about whether she could fully commit to swimming, or not.
It was her year 6 teacher who advised her. He told her that she should “go for it” and the simplicity appealed to her – in her words, she just needed “togs, goggles and maybe a cap!”
In her time with us she spoke about her own rewards, that she is proud of her achievements and that she really wanted to get a medal. She spoke warmly about her swimming family community and her “teamy community” that started at school. She described the friendships she has made and that being part of a sporting community that feels like a family “is just as rewarding as trophies and trips away”.
One of her key messages was about being dedicated, motivated and determined and setting herself goals that challenged her. She referred to “hard goals that scare me” and how failing is just a part of learning. She has learned “to get up and get going again”.
She spoke about having a positive focus and urged our students to have something strong to work towards and that setbacks don’t have to be negative.
As I listened to her, I thought about her comments in relation to her personal rewards and her “hard goals”. I reflected on the importance of young people giving things a go, accepting defeat, picking themselves up and really striving to succeed.
She told us that “there is no downside to setting goals that you may think are impossible. Chances are, even if you do not achieve what you set out to do, you will have rich experiences you can learn from and draw on in later life”.
However, the key message for me was Lauren’s sheer ambition. It was very clear and almost tangible. I thought in turn, about the importance of the teachers and students in our schools being ambitious and setting what Lauren called “hard goals”.
Recently our senior team consulted with Professor Glenda Anthony, Co-Director of the Centre of Excellence for Research in Mathematics Education at Massey University in relation to the current review of our school’s maths programme.
The key take away message from our very worthwhile time with Glenda was around ambitious teaching. She spoke to us about the critical importance of teachers always teaching ambitiously and planning challenging learning tasks for their students.
Lauren was very inspiring. Tall and gracious, smiley and kind, humble and sincere, and jam packed with all the qualities that we appreciate and admire in our kiwi sports stars. Her messages of ambition, determination and learning from setbacks were clear and simple. They were wonderful for our students to hear.
Lauren is great kiwi woman with an equally great message.