Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What Teachers Can Learn from Sports Coaches - Cover Art

I'm pretty excited that the cover art for What Teachers Can Learn from Sports Coaches: A Playbook of Instructional Strategies hit my inbox today! The image is en route to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc., and should be updated on those sites soon. I think the design team at Routledge/Eye on Education did a great job!
What Teachers Can Learn from Sports Coaches: A Playbook of Instructional Strategies

Monday, April 21, 2014

Teaching Bell to Bell AND Wire to Wire

I watched more than my fair share of NCAA men's and women's basketball games during the 2014 March Madness. Though my bracket didn't last past the first few games and my teams didn't make it to the Final Four, I was reminded of a pretty valuable lesson for teachers and coaches.

In game after game, I noticed that the best coaches coached hard, teaching every opportunity they encountered, regardless of whether they were winning or losing, and regardless of whether they were up or down by a few points or many. This speaks volumes. It's easy to understand how and why a coach would be fully invested and coaching hard with 30 seconds to go in a close game. It's much more interesting, though, to watch a coach fully invested in his or her team up or down by 20 points or with a lineup full of bench players. It's a safe bet that these coaches, the ones who teach and coach hard buzzer to buzzer, also teach and coach hard wire to wire, or from the beginning of the season right up until the final buzzer of the final game.

The best classroom teachers teach bell to bell and the best administrators expect bell to bell teaching from their teachers. The best classroom teachers also teach wire to wire. Almost all teachers begin each school year with renewed passion for teaching, renewed enthusiasm, excitement, etc. The end of the year, those last several weeks when seniors develop senioritis and the rest of the kids start dreaming of summer vacation, really separates the best teachers from the rest because the best are determined to teach wire to wire. The best teachers don't add in video after video for the last few weeks of school to wind down the year, but rather increase their own efforts to keep kids engaged and maximize every remaining minute of the school year. It might be tempting for teachers to take it down a notch after state testing or AP exams, but the best teachers go bell to bell and wire to wire.

Be sure to look for What Teachers Can Learn from Sports Coaches: A Playbook of Instructional Strategies from Routledge/Eye on Education coming in August, 2014. To join the conversation, use #coachteach on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Teaching Simple (but not easy) Life Lessons

For teachers and coaches, conveying life lessons to students and players stands as one of the most important pillars of teaching and impacting kids. Generally speaking, the life lessons we try to teach our students and players are pretty simple: make good choices, choose friends wisely, don't seek instant gratification, hard work pays off, struggle can develop grit, plan ahead, etc. For students, following through and actualizing these life lessons rarely is easy. Simple? Yes. Easy? No.

Being up front with students and players about this dilemma while teaching life lessons gets their attention and forces them to begin to think ahead. If kids can think ahead and have an idea about how they will respond once they find themselves in certain situations, situations in which they must make good choices, they are far more likely to follow through with the simple (but not easy) life lessons they're being taught daily.

I came across this quote from former University of Michigan football coach, Bo Schembechler, while researching for my forthcoming book, What Teachers Can Learn from Sports Coaches: A Playbook of Instructional Strategies. I think Coach gets it exactly right here, and his words lay the groundwork for many conversations I've had with both students and parents. “The lessons I want to teach are simple as can be, but they must not be that easy, because not many people in this world seem to be able to follow them anymore.” (from Bo’s Lasting Lessons: The Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership by Bo Schembechler and John U. Bacon)

When teaching life lessons, which is something great teachers and great coaches do, explain that the lessons are simple, and acknowledge that the choices and subsequent actions are not easy. Simple? Yes. Easy? No. If we want our students and players to be better people for having been under our guidance, we must continue to teach life lessons even though their follow-through often times will be difficult.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Books as Weapons, and a Great Cross-Curricular Teaching Idea

Did you know the CIA used books as weapons during the Cold War? Specifically, during the Cold War, the CIA used Boris Pasternak's sweeping epic Dr. Zhivago as a political weapon, according to a new article in the Washington Post. At the time of this governmental/literary plot, a CIA official said, "we have the opportunity to make Soviet citizens wonder what's wrong with their government," among other things. The full story will be told in a book, The Zhivago Affair, set to be released in June. If you are a literature teacher or a history teacher, I highly recommend you read the article. Two words: absolutely fascinating. (And two more words: well written.)

Books throughout history have been censored by various governments for their dangerous, subversive content. In a way, such censorship seems an eerie parallel to government taking weapons out of the hands of its citizens. How often, though, have governments used books against other governments? Although the success of this campaign can be debated, it surely provides for interesting discussion.

Speaking of discussion, this article provides the a great cross-curricular teaching idea. Here we have a great opportunity for Social Studies and English teachers to tear down the walls between the disciplines and collaborate. Students need to be reading more articles than ever in today's classrooms and here's a great one. For a great collaborative lesson, here are the nuts and bolts:

  • During the unit or chapter on the Cold War (could be US History, World History, AP Euro, US Government, Comparative Government, and more), the Social Studies teacher provides historical background and context of the Cold War.
  • After the Cold War info has been taught, students in the aforementioned course(s) read the article.
  • In the Social Studies class, the teacher uses the article as a jumping off point for discussion on Cold War tactics, propaganda, espionage, psychological warfare, other examples of literature being used as propaganda, etc.
  • In the English or Literature class, the teacher uses the article as a jumping off point to discuss Russian literature, Russian writers, Dr. Zhivago specifically, censorship, etc., and to have students read excerpts from the novel.
  • What is accomplished? Students tie Social Studies to literature. Students read a non-fiction article they otherwise wouldn't have read. Students read excerpts of Russian literature after having historical context to frame the reading. Teachers collaborate. Everybody wins.
I challenge you take advantage of this very cool opportunity. Students win because of all the reasons mentioned above. Teachers win because they can collaborate and because they can enhance their students' classroom experiences. The backbone of the lesson is here for the taking!