What If We Treat Students Like Athletes?
What if we treated our students like we treat athletes? What if we taught like a coach at halftime? What if we could recreate the same enthusiasm and energy that we have for sports in our classrooms?
If you were ever an athlete, you know how magical it all is, and how much athletes look forward to competing. When I was around twelve, it was raining after school, before my baseball game. Then, a miracle. The sun came out and “I Can See Clearly Now” by Jimmy Cliff came on the radio. My friend on the team called me because he was so excited that it cleared up. I want to bring that same love of the game to my classroom; I want them to be just as excited to come to my class.
So, what are the benefits of making education more like a playing field? Think about how athletes treat mistakes in sports. They are just things that happen that inspire them to do better next time. Athletes rely on teammates to help them improve. Athletes even organize socials to bond and get to know each other off the playing field. Coaches break down skills into manageable parts and run short drills to help us master those skills. They speak loudly and use wild body language to get their players to see the big picture and work together. They demonstrate the techniques they want their athletes to master using their own legs and arms. They are not afraid to use a loud whistle to command attention. Okay, maybe that’s taking it too far, but you get my point.
Our schools already function a lot like a sports organization. We give a lot of opportunity to perform: music, singing, acting, art, science and math competitions, poetry recitations, and news broadcasts. These performances are very similar to the championship game we love to watch at the end of our favorite team’s season.
We love sports the way we love stories and characters – full of surprises, disappointments, successes, miracles, limitations, flaws, discovery, beauty, conflict, and extraordinary accomplishments.
I am working on a course on Teacher’s Workshop for all teachers that will take the same approach and framework used in athletics. I will go over many useful resources and research, and provide stories and student work from my own classroom. The topics will cover research-based approaches to teaching.
Here are the course topics:
Incremental Learning: Learning the Basics First
Activity and Time Management: Planning Practice and Drills
Motivating and Celebrating Students: Team Culture
Teacher Support and Collaboration: The Coaching Staff
Conferencing with Students: Individual and Team Feedback
Student-Student Support and Group Work: Teamwork and Grouping Athletes
Online Support: Scheduling and Communicating
The Learning and Testing Balance: Training and Game Day
The Question of Homework: Frequency and Length of Practice
Notetaking and Differentiation: Creating Graphics and Visuals
Grades and What They Represent: “Have fun”
Equitable Teaching: The Level Playing Field
Metacognition: Pregame Preparation and Postgame Analysis
Positive Parent-Teacher Relationships: Community Building and Public Relations
Competitions and Getting Students Outside the Classroom: Habits and Team dinners/parties
Publishing and Displaying Student Work: The Stadium, Awards, Championships, and Records
Independent and Choice Work: Playing Different Sports and Positions
When to Teach with Technology: Using Video and Apps to Master Technique
Project-Based Learning: Innovation and Creativity
Knowing What Works: Coach and Athlete Collaboration
English language arts teacher
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers