Thursday, August 16, 2012

In Which Project Based Learning and Troy Aikman Make My Day

I am so excited about football season starting! If you know me, you may be thinking my account has been hacked, but no, it’s really me. Here’s how we got here:
First, my district is getting fired up about Project Based Learning. So to catch up on the conversation, I’ve been watching videos at Edutopia. I was suspicious about PBL being another “this will change everything!” educational trend, but it’s really just a fancy name for all the coolest things you remember doing in school (like this suped-up soil project).

Second, I was talking with an esteemed colleague (e.c.) about his youth league football season starting up.  He shared an ESPN video that he shared with me (at top: watch it to about 3:10 to get the full effect – goosebumps), and it gave me this epiphany:

Coaches are the most successful teachers in school.

Now, I don’t mean in their health classes or whatever they’re also teaching (I’m thinking of you, Meathead the Physics Coach).  I mean, on Friday nights, their students are so excited about the subjects the coaches are teaching—physical skills, plays, teamwork, leadership and followship—that they are practically throwing up before the game.  They want to win! They want to show their whole town how hard they’ve worked and how much they’ve learned!
Gratuitous Photo of Troy Aikman (Allison v. Smith)
True story, folks: In the history of schools, no one has ever felt that way about an end-of-six-weeks grammar test. 

I want that! I want kids so excited about being successful that they practically pee their pants (but don't actually; that's why I don't teach elementary). When that kind of excitement has been present in my classroom or others I've seen, it's when we've come alongside the kids to make them ready to meet a goal that's bigger than our tiny classroom world. When we've coached.

And I think that's a very old-fashioned, sound educational theory. In TJ's time, kids followed grown-ups around and their educational outcomes were things that really, really mattered and that could make a kid proud: things like "I helped that calf learn to take milk from a bottle so my sister can drink its mothers' milk," or, "I made that stepladder that my dad can use in the storeroom," or maybe, "I learned the Latin phrase that I have to say in front of the grownups at the school exhibition." 

Watching the boys in the ESPN video talk about the "fire inside" as they approach the field, watching the coach remember his the coaches who'd mentored him after he lost his dad, watching Troy Aikman remember the pride he felt walking through the hallways on Friday nights...I get all tingly. and it's not all because Troy Aikman is the cutest thing ever. It's because this is why we all got into the kid business to begin with.  We wanted to put fires inside kids that keep burning throughout their lives.  We wanted to give them clear eyes and full hearts.

So I'm excited about football season because I plan to learn a LOT about how coaches have been way ahead of the curve on this stuff.   And because I can see more of Troy Aikman. He's still playing, right?     Right?

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