Since the 10 June, I have been enjoying every ounce of the Northern Ireland #daretodream hashtag as a school leader.
Since the Euros started our pupils have enjoyed a range of activities. They have been busy designing new football kits and writing letters of advice to the manager Michael O’Neill. We enjoyed a Northern Ireland Feast and had a Euro Shirt day for charity. The primary language of the school has been French for the past three weeks. A French cafe is in operation every break time, ran by an efficient Year 2 class. Several new football songs have been composed and the school flag is on tour in Paris.
For every match the team has played, we’ve sang a Northern Ireland song instead of one of our traditional assembly choruses. The whole school has even enjoyed doing the bouncy on the front lawn. The mood in school has been great. The staff and children have been jubilant in their celebrations. Our parents have engaged with the whole spirit of our activities and shared many of our activities proudly on social media.
As an inclusive school, we also have noted the success of other teams in the Euros too, as we have children from Poland, Portugal, France and the Republic of Ireland.
For me the best part has been the #daretodream assemblies.
I have based all our assemblies over the past couple of weeks on this hashtag. I have focused the children on the fact that they too can dare to dream. I have talked about all sorts of football analogies. I’ve applied them to school life and our school values. The support staff has even started to attend, one even said that if her school assemblies where more like that when she was at school she would have went more often.
The highlight for me has been a dad who just happened to be former N. Ireland International Goal Keeper who volunteered to come in and talk to the pupils in assembly on Monday morning. He explained that whilst we can all dare to dream unless we believe in ourselves and work hard you cannot achieve our dreams.
It reminded me of the work of Matthew Syed. He writes that in order to be the best at anything you need 10,000 hours of practice. Without effort, challenge and belief you will not succeed. Talent, he believes is a myth without it.
Every endeavour pursed with passion produces a successful outcome, regardless of the result. For it is not about the winning or losing -rather, the efforts put forth in producing the effort.
In today’s modern world, I feel that our children expect success and instant gratification for little effort. I found it extremely humbling to hear one of our school dads and former pupil of a local school, telling my pupils that his success was down to his effort and belief in himself to reach the top.
Win, lose or draw regardless of whatever team you support. The biggest lesson we need to teach our pupils through the Euros; is that not one footballer got there on talent alone. They got there by working hard. We need to encourage our pupils to believe in their abilities and help them to fulfil their potential.