Coaching And Teaching

It’s no big secret that for a lot of people in my business, these two activities overlap. It’s gotta be a Top-Ten Interview Question. Maybe Top Five: “Will you coach?” Baseball, robotics, spell bowl, class sponsor, something.

And it’s no big secret that taking on an extra duty means a hardship on family. I rolled home about 8:15 Wednesday, my wife’s birthday, after helping to coach the boys tennis team in a match. My season is short. For a lot of guys and ladies in my building, that’s a year-round reality. And nobody is getting rich off their staples. So I’m not looking for sympathy.

Sometimes in the winter I leave school late on purpose just to catch the sunset over the football field. Feeds my soul.
Sometimes in the winter I leave school late on purpose just to catch the sunset over the football field. Feeds my soul.

Also, not hidden: coaching is what teachers do. In season and out. In the classroom and out. In our families and out.

But, a little reminder from time to time never hurts. Exhibit A: My Facebook has been filled with proud parents helping their kids leave the nest. Off to college, new cities, new jobs…. you probably see the same smiling-yet-trying-not-to-cry faces in your feed. My 19-year-old son moved out this summer, joining his best friend from high school in a southern college town. He’s not going to school, but is trying to get a job and get settled in, then maybe try to enroll in classes.  And you know the drill: where’s the nearest pizza place. That delivers. McDonald’s (with wifi), 7/11 (or Circle K, or White Hen, or whatever), grocery store, bus stop, mall, Catholic church. Google helps, having a roomie who knows the town helps… but still. We’re just hoping some of the stuff he picked up from us over the last 19 years sticks. We can’t be remote-controlling him from 1100 miles away. I’ve got to rely that when it counts, he can apply what he learned.

Exhibit B: We’ve got two freshmen teamed up at #2 doubles, a traditional entry point for new players. These guys are really new – never played before. Which is fine – we’ll teach you. It’s what we do. So in a match the other day, one of our newbies and a returning veteran were paired at doubles. Halfway through a set they picked up their gear and the scorecards and came off the court. What’s wrong? They thought the match was done when they had *played* six games, not when one team had *won* six games. Of course we coached them up, sent them back out, and had them finish the match. We relied on them being able to keep track of score for themselves without us looking over their shoulder every point.

Leading me to: The Classroom. I’m teaching two sections of Algebra 1A to students who have previously failed the class. Our objectives might be *slightly* different. I want them to actually learn.  Many of them want to jump through hoops, put the right squiggles on a piece of paper, and slide by with a D-minus-minus-minus. Just like we’ve trained them to do for 10 years. We talked from the outset that I wasn’t interested in propping up their grades with a lot of fluff points or BS extra credit. I want the grade the earn to reflect what they know. What they can do. So when their next teacher tries to teach them Algebra 1B she doesn’t shake her fist at the sky and wonder what the hell was going on in my class.

I want them to be able to *do* math, even when I’m not standing next to them, holding their hand. Just like I want my son to be able to do life on his own. Just like I want my athletes to know the rules and strategies of the game (and execute them on the court). If that’s gonna be the case, then my activities and assessments better reflect that.

I’m planning a review on solving equations early next week, and I’m bouncing around some #MTBoS-inspired ideas for an activity that will involve grouping kids together, having all students active, and allowing for them to check each other’s work.   Pretty much @k8nowak and @mathequalslove living rent-free in my head, designing review activities. I’m for sure not going to stand at the presenter and do problems while they play on their phones and ignore me.

My hope (and my pedagogical belief) is that student-centered style of review is the way students best learn for the long-term. I’m hoping when I send them out on the court, into an apartment of their own, for the quiz, that they’ll be able to take what they’ve learned and apply it, display it, and be proud of it.

Here we go.


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