photo by Eric Johnson
I'm a teacher. I coach. I did not become a teacher so that I can coach. I have no dreams of building a dynasty, no illusions of grand recognition, no vicarious thrills to be realized. I want to become a better teacher, not the next John Wooden.
A couple of years ago our elementary boys were in danger of not fielding a team, because of the difficulty of finding a volunteer coach. Understandable. Coaching demands a huge time commitment. From call-up meetings and registration to roster preparation, practices, games, and on and on. There is a lot to do to get a team on the court. Volunteer? There's not a very long line. So faced with the option of our 6th grade boys not having an opportunity to play, I halfheartedly agreed.
It turned out to be a lot of fun. The boys had fun and made a successful run to get to the championship game, although ultimately losing. Along the way, my co-coach (a fellow teacher) and I became friends and I realized that sports helped improve my student relationships and my classroom management.
Sporting relationships are different than classroom relationships, but both help Room 216's learning environment. Having an opportunity to relate to a kid through sports, especially one who might struggle with classroom environments, gives that student another chance to learn.
Our classroom is not the court or track. Sports practices are much more relaxed and informal than in our classroom. That's not to say that things are rigid and over-structured in our classroom, but shooting free throws is very different from understanding the differences between observations and inferences in science. However, if a kid can trust me to show her the proper form for running the 600m, she may just give me the chance to show her how to analyze a literary text. I'm more concerned about the latter, but if a conversation about stride turnover or a better back door pass helps me help them in the classroom, then I'm in.
It could be easily said that coaching and teaching are the same, and to a certain extent, I agree. The difference for me is that coaching can be too goal focused and teaching for me is more of a process with my kids. As a teacher, I want them to learn, be curious, creative, and think to the best of their ability.
I'm careful to keep the coach and the teacher separate. I don't hand out extra laps for missed assignments or classroom misbehavior and I don't talk about the previous night's game in math class. I don't want to alienate the other students in my class and I won't play favorites. Everybody is different and learns in different ways. I don't want to run the risk of 'losing' anybody.
I've found that kids that participate on teams that I've coached are more attentive in class, reign in their behavior choices a little better, respond to re-directions a little quicker and have a little bit more perseverance on learning tasks than they did before the season. All worthwhile results that occur whether or not they made their free throws.
And apparently my 'you're dogging it during suicides' or 'you're not boxing out' looks are the same as my "get back at your fraction practice" look. I might as well put both of them to good use.
Thanks for reading.
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