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Two years ago I wrote an article about the Tour de France, and given it is the greatest race in the world, I thought it was about time to return to the sensational world of competitive cycling and the revered yellow jersey. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spend this time reminiscing about my own tales of trial and triumph, but I will speak about the 2019 Tour de France, a Frenchman named Julianne Alaphilippe and the power of expectation.
Over the three week race, the yellow jersey is awarded each day to the cyclist who is winning the race overall. It is the most recognisable symbol in world cycling and remains the epitome of success for many. It wasn’t completely unexpected when Alaphilippe won Stage 3 of the Tour and took the yellow jersey as the overall race leader. What was unexpected however, was how many days he would wear it, and how hard the race favourites would have to fight to get it off his back!
For 14 glorious days Alaphilippe wore yellow in a statement of utter defiance. Not being renowned for his mountain climbing or time trialling abilities, it was all but certain that the favourites would soon eat away at his lead once the race entered the individual time trial and the feared mountain stages. However, it wasn’t to be. With the yellow jersey on his back, Alaphilippe went on to win the individual time trial and extend his overall lead. He then entered the mountain stages where the race favourites couldn’t shake him. The French crowds roared as km by km Alaphilippe moved closer to wearing yellow at the final stage in Paris.
What was supposed to be one or two days in yellow turned into two weeks. Alaphilippe spoke openly about the lift he received from wearing yellow, but even greater than that was the weight of expectation he felt from the French crowds. They believed he could win, and he was determined not to let them down.
Researchers from a range of backgrounds have proven there is power in expectation. People respond to the expectations placed upon them. It is no different in education. Our students respond when the bar is set high, even if they don’t believe they are capable at first. High expectations is one thing, but having worked in a range of schools what I often find missing is the key element of encouragement and creating an atmosphere where students want to respond. We may not be a French crowd screaming at a cyclist riding up a mountain, but at PCS we are encouraging our students to achieve what even they don’t think they are sometimes capable of.
We have no greater example to follow than the life of Jesus. His expectations were high, but so was the level of support and encouragement. His followers knew they could talk with him when they messed up. They also knew they could count on him challenging them and cheering them on to achieve what he knew they were capable of. I was reminded of this at our Major Works Showcase last Monday evening. What a beautiful example it was to see student potential fulfilled through high expectations, hard work and plenty of encouragement. If you were to show the finished product to students right back at the beginning of the year, plenty would not think they were capable of such work.
Let’s ensure that we work together as a school community to keep our expectations high and cheer our students on as they achieve great things. As for Alaphilippe, with 2 Stages to go he eventually lost yellow on the toughest of mountain stages. He may not have won the Tour, but he will go down in history as a true example of what can be achieved through the power of expectation.
Have a great week.