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!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What Teachers Can Learn from Sports Coaches

“What’s the difference between great teachers and great coaches? In this compelling book, Nathan Barber proves that you can’t be one without the other.” Annette Breaux

“Nathan Barber draws on the wisdom and experience of some of the best teachers in sports and translates that wisdom into best practices for your classroom.” Kim Mulkey

What Teachers Can Learn from Sports Coaches: A Playbook of Instructional Strategies (From Routledge/Eye on Education Publishers) The strategies used by winning coaches on the field can bring success to classrooms, too. In What Teachers Can Learn from Sports Coaches, you’ll discover that the athletic arena and the classroom have more in common than you think. Author Nathan Barber demonstrates how many of the principles of coaching can be used by teachers to motivate students, build community and enhance teaching.

Strategies in the book include:
  • Communicate Effectively
  • Make Work Meaningful
  • Embrace Technology
  • Build a Winning Tradition
  • Teach Life Lessons
  • Seek Continual Improvement

Teachers, administrators and coaches from any and all grade levels and subject areas will find valuable insight into and wisdom related to some of the instructional strategies today’s greatest coaches use to build great players and successful teams.

For months, I personally collected wisdom from some of the greatest coaches in the US and some from around the world. Included in the list of coaches are Olympic medalists, NCAA national champion coaches, state champion coaches, national team coaches, and all-time winningest coaches. Additionally, the two forewords have been written by nationally-known educational guru Annette Breaux and two-time NCAA champion coach Kim Mulkey. I will release more info soon about the other amazing coaches who contributed to this book. The editors currently are working on cover art, advance praise and book reviewers. (If you are interested in providing a blurb or doing a book review, please contact me.

The book already is listed at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as on Goodreads. (The current cover art and prices are simply placeholders and do not reflect the final art and pricing). To get the most recent updates, you can Like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter. As the release date of August, 2014, gets closer, I'll share more information about this project, about my journey from blank page to final draft, and about the fascinating insight into coaching and teaching I've picked up along the way from some amazing coaches. This project will spawn a number of articles, blog posts and more.

Thanks for your interest in What Teachers Can Learn from Sports Coaches: A Playbook of Instructional Strategies.

Updated 3-22-14



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

10 Ways Teaching is Exactly Like Golf


I hope you enjoy this infographic. If you'd like to have a full-size, printable copy of this file, either leave a comment below, let me know via Facebook, or Twitter at @_nathanbarber, or email me.