Starting the Year Like an Olympian

The new school year can seem a little daunting as we meet some of our new students–stony faces with downcast eyes and unmoving mouths. We can’t blame them for their silence or their reluctance, however, especially since a lot of our ELL students have faced “not in my classroom” attitudes from other teachers. They probably expect that this year will be like any other, sliding and sinking into the background unnoticed. That’s why we have to show them—right off the bat—that it’s not going to be that way.

Starting the year right is imperative. You have the chance to establish trust with your kids, motivate them, inspire them, and set goals with them. With your help, they can envision what hurdles they will overcome, what goals they will achieve, and most importantly, who they will be at the end of the year. So, in the “can do” spirit of the summer Olympics, we compiled photos and stories from someone who has inspired us this summer: Lauren Hernandez. Today, we’re sharing some lesson from her life that will be sure to lift even your most discouraged students.

What do we love about her?

She has a great attitude

Nicknamed the “human emoji”, Hernandez is expressive. She captivates crowds with her smiles and her expressive style. But it’s not just for show, she has a great attitude. She’s quick to thank her family and coach for having achieved so much early in her career. You’ll notice, too, how she runs to hug her coach after each event and cheers her teammates on during their performances.

Hernandez reminds us that success starts with attitude; we can only win if we think we can and if we are determined to do so. Also, we are not alone. Friends, family, and mentors are along the way ready to help.

She’s overcome great obstacles

Photo: Washington Post

Despite her setbacks, she’s quick to get right back up. Hernandez worked through a fractured wrist, a dislocated kneecap, a torn patella ligament, and a bruised MCL two years ago. Disappointedly, she took 2015 off to recover, but came back ready to win in 2016.

Students can be hard on themselves, especially if they feel they aren’t grasping the language as quickly as they want to. Remind them, however, that consistent hard work over time is the key to success, and that even the pros have to work everyday to get better.

She’s Only One Person: Herself

Hernandez has made her mark because of one simple thing: she is who she is.

Hernandez stated in an interview that she would like to act after her gymnastics career, but in her own way she is already doing it in the gym. Her floor routines particularly exemplify her unique style and her flare for drama, but she exudes confidence from the uneven bars to the vault.

Being immersed in a new language and a new culture makes anyone uncomfortable, because as people are removed from familiar things they feel they lose parts of their identity. Unfortunately, students tend to lose confidence, overlook their strengths, and focus on their weaknesses. Hernandez’ example, however, reminds us that even if we are the youngest, least experienced on the team we can keep up and make an impact.

Most importantly, we love Lauren Hernandez because she is a role model for all. At the young age of sixteen, she has accomplished great things as a gymnast, and her example is inspiring for everyone. We are also proud to see another Latina competing in the Olympics, knowing that her influence is especially moving for other kids watching the Olympics and thinking, “She’s just like me, so I can do it too.”