I coach. From mid-November to mid-July I am in the gym, at the track, and in the gym. I have often said, “I’m done coaching after this season.” Only to be drawn back in to the arena. I do love competition. I do love basketball, I fall asleep to the NBA nightly when the association is in session. I have grown to love track.But none of those things keep me coaching. Athletics is the purest form of personalized learning that exist today.

Personalized learning is difficult to pull off in the classroom, but expected in athletics. I coach a stud triple jumper. He’s a senior this year. He’s a three sport athlete, and very gifted. He’s hilarious. I got to thinking, what if this young man had to throw a shot put a minimum distance in order to triple jump, long jump, or high jump. The notion is ridiculous, but it’s basically what we do to our students in the classroom. So you want to take two art classes in a term? I’m sorry, you have to take English and Phy Ed every year. Your really exceptional at French? I’m sorry, you can’t get to French 4, until you’ve gone through the appropriate sequence. You can dunk at age 14 and shoot a twenty footer with ease? Please come and play against people four years older than you on varsity.

(after the game)
The above was written on the bus heading to the gym. Now I’m writing as we head home on the bus. My iPad bounces around, and I try to gather my thoughts. I’m angry. The refs were horrible. The players were not tough with the ball. As a coach, I feel like I didn’t prepare the guys. I have never had this feeling when reviewing state standardized test scores six months after the tests were completed. Athletics isn’t always fair. In fact, one thing I’ve been thinking about quite a bit is losing. In sports, losing happens often. Much has been written lately about framing failure in a different lens in education. But what if each student had a personalized learning plan documenting successes and failures. Imagine an annual plan where students communicate implementing designs successfully and chronicling a failed job shadow at a local law firm. Such a plan, easily allows personalized learning and assessment as a dialog to take place. I often ask athletes, “what do you want me to help you get better at?” I need to be more conscious with my students and elicit similar feedback. I think I am too quick with telling students what I think they need to get better at, rather than asking them what they want to be coached up on.

How do we build in supports to make teaching more like coaching? How do we push and find what areas individuals are extremely talented in? How do we provide countless educational opportunities at early ages and delay specialization? As with most of my posts, I don’t claim to have the answers. But I’d love to have a dialog and start building solutions with you.

How do we build capacity for our youth to serve in different roles? How do we make sure the same students are not always leading or sitting back and letting peers answer? This one I have been working out. I think we as teachers have to explicitly tell our best and brightest this: having the right answer is no longer enough. Student leaders need to include and build the voices of their peers. I as a teacher have a long way to go in terms of facilitating conversation rather than directing it; but I have seen tremendous growth in my students when I talked to them individually about supporting the learning of their peers.

Many thanks for reading through the typos…tablets, school buses, and county roads do not collaborate well.


About Michael

Do Work!
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