The Paralympics, pupils, and potential

Elizabeth Wright

Elizabeth is a Paralympic medalist, Author, Speaker, and co-founder of schools programme Resilience Wellbeing Success. Passionate about developing self-belief in our young people, Elizabeth uses storytelling and interactivity to build a rapport with young people, engaging them with a sense of fun and humour. Her aim is to leave young people believing in their own potential and capabilities to achieve their goals - if she could do it, then anyone can.

Follow @esioul

Follow @RWSuccess

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sarah* was born with a congenital limb deficiency, meaning that her right arm was shortened slightly and she had all but two of her fingers missing on her right hand. Her parents loved her and wanted the best for her, and she was fortunate to have been born at a time where she could go to a mainstream Primary school with no problems... no problems other then being bullied and having no positive role models with disabilities like hers. With her self-confidence low and doubt about her future and what she could achieve, Sarah and her mum were scared about what the next few years would bring. Then one day her primary school bought in a visiting speaker.

"Sarah stood up and proudly showed her picture, her vision for her future."
It wasn't just your average speaker though, not for Sarah anyway. This speaker looked quite a bit like her - this person was also missing fingers and had a shortened arm - and she also told stories about her own experiences growing up and being bullied at Primary school. This speaker also had some medals to show to her audience, medals from the Paralympic Games. Sarah sat with tears in her eyes, enthralled by the sudden possibilities laid out before her - the visiting speaker looked like Sarah and yet she had had great success in life and firmly believed that all children, and especially children like Sarah, could achieve great success also.

Later that day Sarah and her class were asked to think about what they wanted to be when they grew up, and to either write about it or draw a picture. As Sarah sat and thought about her own future, she realised she felt inspired; grabbing some paper and her pencils, she started to draw. At the end of class the pupils were asked who would like to stand up and talk about their picture, and with a new sense of confidence, a feeling of beautiful self-belief emerging, Sarah stood up and proudly showed her picture, her vision for her future. On her piece of paper was a swimming pool, and in the pool she was swimming a race, a crowd cheered her on, and in the middle of the crowd were her parents, her siblings, and the Paralympic speaker who had inspired her. Sarah wanted to go to the Paralympics, and she now firmly believed that she could follow in the lady speaker’s footsteps.

Sarah wasn’t the only child inspired in that moment - the Paralympics, you see, is not just a vessel to inspire and motivate young people with disabilities, it is also a vessel to evoke possibility for all children - the belief that no matter what life throws at you, you can achieve what it is that you want to achieve. It reflects the resilience and growth mindset needed for success, in whatever form that success takes, ie academic results, sports achievements, family relationships, self-development. For children, disabled or not, to see someone go head-on with grit and determination, to do their best in their chosen speciality, can be nothing but a motivating influence.

It is these words, these skills that are the current buzzwords in the education world: resilience, growth mindset, grit, and determination. All words that embody the attitudes of elite athletes all over the world, but most revealed in the Paralympic Athlete. Already having a difficult start in life (or an illness or acquired disability in years after birth), Paralympic athletes innately embody resilience, grit, and determination, and through these skills naturally develop a growth mindset, a belief that in every setback there is a lesson to be learnt, a chance to move forward faster, bigger, better. In this growth mindset development, the focus turns to the inner world of the athlete, the power to master oneself in a continuous cycle, through the deep valleys of failure, to the tops of success mountains. These are the skills we want to develop in all of our pupils, the ability to take knocks in life, but then ultimately thrive.
"Understanding that life is full of obstacles, we can teach pupils to drive onwards."
The motto for the Paralympics is ‘Spirit in Motion’ - a concept that reflects this ability to grow and continuously create positive action towards change and achievement. To embed this concept, of spirit continuously moving forward, in children of all abilities is to awaken their potential, their possibilities. Within the roots of reality, the understanding that life is full of obstacles and tough times, we can teach pupils to drive onwards; these obstacles are but moments in time that are here one minute (or day, or week, or month) and gone the next, life is not static, but an unceasing cycle of movement, and we have the reigns within which we can control our forward, or backwards movement in life.

Introducing pupils to the Paralympics introduces them to the very embodiment of ‘Spirit in Motion’ and also illustrates the very ideals and skills we are trying to nurture in them, resilience and grit. By engaging pupils directly with the Paralympic experience, whether through the use of a speaker or by watching the games either live, or retrospectively, our young people can see that the impossible is possible, if you give yourself the chance to learn and grow and thrive with each challenge that arises. Whether your pupils have disabilities or not, whether they struggle with self-belief, or a strong sense of self, the Paralympics is a perfect way to show them that life is life, and that you yourself are responsible for your achievements and success.

*Sarah is an amalgamation of young pupils with disabilities across a cross section of Yorkshire Primary Schools

Has your school ever been visited by a Paralympian? Share your stories below!

[Image Credit]

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"