Never Daunted

In Indiana they feel about basketball the way Texans feel about football or Minnesota folks about hockey. They game wasn’t invented there, just perfected there.

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“In 49 states it’s just basketball.” Nine of the 10 largest high school gyms are located in Indiana.

Which means virtually everyone has played the game, watched the game, maybe coached some 10-year-olds for a winter or two, which makes them an expert.

“I know everything there is to know about the greatest game ever invented.” Source

My side gig has kept me in and out of gyms for a long time. But it’s been probably 30 years since I’ve been in Assembly Hall to see a Hoosiers game. A friend and fellow alum passed along a couple of tickets last weekend, so Mrs. Dull and I drove 3 1/2 hours through the pouring rain see IU square off with Ohio State. The athletic department was putting on an alumni weekend with former players from the Final Four and National Championship teams lining the court. It was a treat to see guys like Damon Bailey and Landon Turner on the floor, but the highlight came when Alan Henderson was given the honor of addressing the crowd. For obvious reasons:

“We know how badly you all wanted us to win. But, trust me, we always wanted to win even just a little bit more than you wanted us to win. One thing I was thinking about coming in here was, if you do lose, the next practice is something you’re not really looking forward to. I remember walking into Assembly Hall, and almost wanting to sneak through like a ninja, so Coach didn’t see me, or anyone else, just get to my locker, tryna make it through, you know? So just keep in mind, these young men are competing as hard as they can, the coaches are doing the best they can do, so through the ups and downs of the seasons, I just want you to know how important it is that you all stay behind the team, stay as positive as you can, and just keep moving the ball.”

I love Alan Henderson. As a young broadcaster I got to call his final high school game, an Indianapolis Brebeuf loss to Glenn Robinson and Gary Roosevelt at the RCA Dome. The rivalry between the state’s two best big men continued as Big Dog went to Purdue, Henderson to IU where he led the Hoosiers to the 1992 Final Four. Henderson got a huge round of applause when he called Assembly Hall the best place to play college basketball in the country. But I think his aim was something else. I had heard that he went “off script” a little bit. The fans are a little down on Archie Miller right now. Like, “ready to help him pack his bags”-level down. You know how they say the most popular man in Chicago is the Bears backup quarterback? In Bloomington it’s the next IU basketball coach. They are all chasing the ghost of Robert Montgomery Knight. Since Knight was fired after the 2000 season, IU has had five coaches who have won about 58% of their games and made the NCAA tourney 10 times in 21 seasons. Despite his brilliance as a coach, Knight is a sad, petty, bully who has consistently refused to attend events at the university honoring his players and teams. But the fans look up and see the championship banners and judge every coach by that (unattainable) standard. Ask UCLA fans what it’s like to see the game pass you by, right?

If Henderson had all this in mind as he wrote his speech, it was the most savage two minutes in that building maybe ever. One of the state’s greatest players, a Mr. Basketball runner-up and NBA mainstay, put a statewide fan base on blast.

Watch a game surrounded by Indiana basketball people, and you’ll notice a few things. They definitely have opinions about the “right way” to play the game. Check what they cheer for – the 25-second defensive stand, the extra pass, the unselfish play, the kid who bypasses an off-balance shot in traffic to pull the ball back out top and reset the offense (“set it up!”). I swear when I heard someone yell “set it up” I wanted to walk down the aisle and ask them “set up what?” Like, diagram a play for me. Where are those guys supposed to be right now?

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I thought so.

And yeah, those are all good things. To be honest, the current team stands around a little bit too much on offense for my taste. But that’s not ’70s nostalgia, that’s the inability to be successful playing 1-on-5 every time down against modern-day Big 10 players.

I’ve been thinking about that speech a lot lately, thinking about it while I’m in the classroom and while I plan lessons and while I get ready to host my unannounced evaluation. And yeah, I think about it while I grade papers. Darryl Thomas was a member of the 1987 National Championship Hoosiers team, a Chicago-area guy and genuinely good person who died too young. At 6-foot-7 he was undersized at the position he was asked to play. But he showed up every day and had a hand in the greatest in-person basketball moment of my life, taking a low-post pass, sensing a double-team and kicking to Keith Smart in the corner for the game-winner against Syracuse:

In his book Season On The Brink, John Feinstein wrote that Bob Knight once put feminine protection products in Thomas’ locker as a comment on Darryl’s perceived lack of toughness. Later, Knight sat with Thomas and said, “Darryl, sometimes I think I want you to be a great player more than you want you to be a great player.”

Do I think I want my students to be successful more than they want themselves to be successful? Do my administrators want me to be a good teacher more than I want to be a good teacher?

I feel like sneaking into the building like a ninja some mornings, that is for sure. And if I do, I bet my kids do sometimes too.

During an interview I had an administrator tell me once “our students are the children of doctors and lawyers”. And yeah, they are. But thinking about that conversation later, I thought, yeah but they are also children of single moms who wait tables and work at K-Mart and dads who fix cars and grab their hard hat and steel-toes and work midnights at the mill.

As Alan Henderson might say, hey, these students are doing the best they can do, the teachers are competing as hard as they can, maybe it’s time to stay behind them and be positive.

Because when we do, this is the greatest job in the country. I might even have One Shining Moment before the year is up.

Halftime Adjustments

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Live Look-In to my class during the quadratics unit. Image via http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/06/arts/this-is-fine-meme-dog-fire.html?_r=0.

A piece of our teacher evaluation rubric is evidence of using data to drive remediation and instruction, not just on a one-time basis but as a habit, throughout the year. The suggested method is doing a quick analysis of quiz/test grades, then planning intentionally in class based on the results.

Here’s what the quiz over solving quadratics by factoring looked like:

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That’s. Not. Good.

I… feel shame.

It’s a Track 3 class, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have high expectations. But coupled with those high expectations has to be a plan to help students rise to meet them. I’m big into “you do, y’all do, we do“, and collaboration and 1-on-1 student sharing is baked in the cake just about every day. My long-time philosophy is: Accommodations For All. Quizzes are open-note, and we do a day of review before every quiz. I tell them exactly what is going to be on the quiz itself. There’s no “gotcha”. Everything but walk them by the hand, sit them down, and give them the answers.

And yeah, at some point it’s on them to prepare for class.  Those 39 of the 55 F’s that scored less than 40%? I don’t know what to say.

But I do know what to think: “what else do I need to do for them to have success?”

Did some soul-searching after pondering the results of that quiz. We had a quick turnaround to solving quadratics by completing the square, and using the quadratic formula. I needed to make some changes, pronto.

Upon further review – my students’ needs:

  1. Need more reps for review
  2. Need student choice for quiz
  3. Need shorter quizzes

As so often happens, the solution to at least one of my needs came through my Twitter feed, courtesy of the great Sarah Carter.

A sure-fire way for students to get a chance to solve three (or four or five) quadratics in one class period. Enough to go from a 1 to a 5 or 6 on the confidence meter. Build some muscle memory. By the time I was ready for the review, Thanksgiving had come and gone. But, hey, I know enough to stick a good thing in my back pocket for future reference.

As for the second and third items on my wish list: an old standby. Give them a list of problems from which to choose. In my mind’s eye, here’s what I saw: give ’em 8 quadratics, solve two by factoring, two by taking square roots, two by the formula, two by completing the square.

But, is that still too much? Covers all the skills, but man, that’s a long quiz. What to do, what to do?

Ask the MTBoS:

The response: Tighten it up.

So perfect. Done and done.


 

It is Indiana, after all, so “Turkeys In The Oven” became the basketball-themed “They Got Game.”

 

I’m not above bribery when it comes to methods of getting students to participate in a review. And if they think “extra credit to the winning team” is their idea, all the better.

No lie, you guys, they were begging me for another problem to work out. Asking each other for help when they got stuck. Calling me over to show off work.

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Last period, one group was practically high-fiving each other: “We be ballin’!”

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Scoreboard. Photo cred: me.

So we totaled up points, announced a winner, gave a pep talk, checked for understanding. They assured me they all felt much more prepared for a quiz than they did an hour ago. And for those who wanted or needed more practice, I posted a review module on our Canvas page with all 10 problems and worked-out solutions.

I think we got this. Looking forward to tomorrow.

One Shining Moment, baby. Because we be ballin’.