Is it the Coach or the Team?

I love college football, specifically SEC football. Well, let me be even more specific Alabama football. (ROLL TIDE!) However, one team, our biggest rival,  has been amazing to watch this season. Last year, they had  a horrible season. I mean really horrible.  I even felt bad for them. This year, they are winning- a lot!  It is essentially the same team, same talent and same opponents.  The one change is a new coach.

Here are some things I noticed about the coach and the team:

1. They now have hope that things could be better than last year.

2. The new coach focuses on teamwork but also allows individual talents to shine.

3. There is mutual respect between the coach, the players and the fans (supporters).

4. The enthusiasm builds each week even on tough games.

As I stopped to think about how a good coach can impact the success of a team, it of course bled its way into education.

Over my 23 years of teaching, I have seen students (in my room and other teachers’ rooms)  that were so inquisitive and excited about learning to look so deflated years later.  A student who read every book I had on a particular subject, shows very little interest in reading anything at all.  Now, I know that teachers have different personalities and talents but so do kids.  While we can’t be everything to everyone, we can offer different learning opportunities so every type of learner feels valued.

How can we use the coach’s strengths at the top in a classroom:

1. We need to create an environment where students feel that this can be a different and better year.  Students need hope and assurance that when they arrive at school that learning can be engaging.

2. I love teamwork in the classroom. Students need to learn to work together but they are also individuals. Their individual strengths need to be built upon.  Our students need to know we “see them.” So let’s focus on being a team and a community but allow time for students to grow in areas of interest. These strengths can then be translated into group tasks.  You would think that students know what they excel at, but many times they do not see their own strengths.

3. Once students walk through the door, it is “our” classroom, not “my” classroom. Respect is a vague term we throw around a lot with kids, but I’m not sure they always get it, especially in the lower grades.  They have to have grace to  fail in this area so we can model the respectful response we expect them to show.  I think we assume many times that they understand what we mean by respect each other but they have had few opportunities to practice this skill in a safe place.

4.  If a safe community is established full of hope and respect, students will have hope even when they face tough problems or tasks.  They have hope that they will have time to succeed because the classroom is a safe place to fail and try again.

This turn around team has made me think about my role as “coach” in my classroom.  I want to be the coach that takes discouraged students into an environment that makes them feels like they can stand back up and try again.  I teach 2nd grade and sadly, I have had many students who arrive with a belief that they poor reading or math students.  This may be from a previous classroom, a negative home environment, or an inner dialogue in the mind of the child.  Regardless, my mission is to take this same student and fill them with hope again. Then we both win. 🙂