I’ve soaked in every sweat-filled, pride inducing moment of the Olympics. I’ve laughed at Samuel L. Jackson’s tweets, groaned at every sexist moment of coverage celebrating female athletes for their bodies versus their talent (THEY’RE AT THE FREAKIN OLYMPICS!), celebrated every underdog’s victory, pounded my fists at the smog of racism that permeates so much of the American coverage, and misted up each time an athlete hugs his or her parents.
And finally, in the rare chance to watch an actual live-telecast event here in the US, I closed out the Games with the gold medal men’s basketball game between the US and Spain. I write this deep in the 3rd quarter, where the US team is up by 3, and I can't tell you, at this moment, who is going to win the game.
Here’s what drives me crazy with this men’s team—and where I see so many parallels to education in our country. They play in fits and starts. There are moments when they come together as a great team—but all too often the team misses an opportunity to go on a run. These are great individual performances. Durant, Bryant, James—they are playing great basketball—but they tend to do so in turns.
Over the last 25 years, we’re playing a similar fits and starts game in education. We look to one all-star idea at a time—early childhood education, charters, technology in the classroom, or assessments; these are all important players, but we need them all in the game together. We need amazing coaches leading classrooms, schools, and districts— who come with the conviction that every single student deserves to be challenged, supported, and receive an Olympic gold medal standard education. We need the talents of all-around players comprised of families, communities, social supports, and networks to be lauded and welcomed for the key roles they play. We need specialized masters of their craft—in ECE and STEM and ELL and arts and PE—all playing an integrated game. You can’t go to the post on every play. You're not going to be ultimately successful that way. We need schools to be arenas of excellence—with referees looking out for the best interests of kids, and fans cheering on the efforts of all involved, with our elected officials making sure everyone stays hydrated. We need to be each other’s champions, staying in constant communication, loving each other enough to say what needs to be said, and respecting each other enough to make sure we’re all involved in the conversation.
Game's over, and Team USA wins the gold! I'm excited and proud—but also aware of the disjointed kind of games they played. If we want an Olympic-caliber education for all our kids, it's going to take a lot more than a few all-stars. London brought together 205 countries, with countless cultures, ideas, and aspirations—each representing different teams but with a shared goal of excellence. The US men’s basketball team brought together 12 exceptional players. Now is the time for Team Educational Excellence & Equity to come together in a game where the stakes couldn’t be any higher. Our kids, across the US and around the world, need the very best in each of us. This team must win. Our future depends on us.