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.

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