Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Football and teaching??

So I am just thinking, John says that some of his 8th grade science students this fall seem to have lower than usual basic math skills. And I have been talking with a middle school in Loveland that is concerned because their scores on the Tera Nova show that their 8th grade math students are weak in their basic math computation skills, fraction computation, and decimal computation. Yet, John wants to move students with their science concepts and the Loveland math teacher knows it is important to involve students in critical thinking, application, and analysis.
I am wondering if we can liken this scenario to a high school football coach with a new group of players. Surely, from year to year the quality of the football skills that the team has vary. And yet the coach needs to put on their best results-driven showing each Friday night. The coaching staff needs to balance time spent on skill drills with time sent on game planning, plays, and strategy. John knows that it is important to maintain a sense of momentum with his science students in regard to science learning while trying to offer more opportunities and focus on needed math skills. The Loveland teacher cannot focus only on strengthening computational skills but must continue to connect and involve computation with math analysis and understanding.
Somehow a "less is more" solution is needed here because class time and football practice time are not expandable. And yet remediation takes more time. It seems to me that more resources are needed. I would wonder if possibly a good place to begin is communication with the student (or the football player). Instead of "doing to" the student or player, it might be beneficial for the teacher/coach to communicate one-on-one with the student/player and share the data, the motivation, the confidence, and the overall plan that includes and is dependent upon the remediation. To broaden the possible resources perhaps parent(s) and peers could be involved.
The remediation plan can focus on providing extra time and practice on skill improvement. This can take place in addition to football practice and classroom time. During this time, the student/player spends focused time on monitored practice with skills either alone or with a coach/teacher or with a peer or parent. Careful guidance and monitoring can insure that this time is efficiently, productively, and correctly used to improve weak skills. Feedback regarding skill improvement and next steps is important along the way. During football practice/class time more advanced concepts and performance can be addressed, knowing that the improvement taking place with the remediation practice will continue to improve performance in the classroom and on the field.
The point is that the player/student knows that there is important purpose for the remediation plan and there is a team of people supporting continuous improvement. Stepping back, this thinking can be extended to every player/student in that players/students with strong basic skills can similarly develop in advanced areas and seek additional challenge.
This leads to a more clear definition of what a coach and teacher do. They support the individual growth of each of their individual players/students. And through communication and individualization, everyone involved is motivated to continue to strengthen and develop. A good coach or teacher has experience in knowing the best development plan for each student/player at each developmental stage. I guess this is why the better football teams have lots of assistant coaches. I guess this is why the better teachers could use some assistant teachers... And why does Finland have the top academic test scores in the world? Their classrooms are filled with assistant teachers. Interesting.


  1. There are two very important points you make here in your football and teaching analogy. First, and most important, in my mind is developing ownership for learning in the students through personal guidance and strong student relationships. I have several struggling students this year who have already developed the desire to “keep up”’ even when they don’t get all the ideas and content the first time around. My coaching and individual work on specific skills provides the kind of targeted remediation that truly impacts achievement. Some success allows the student to see they can learn, and at this point the shift of ownership for learning moves to the student. Developing that efficacy in students is my definition of ownership for learning.

    The second key point in your writing is the need to develop a purpose for knowing or learning something. I wrote a paper last year with an extensive section on effective practice, and how purpose for learning affects the value of practice. Once students see the need to know something practice is key in mastery. Developing the desire to learn leads to effective practice that also builds efficacy in students.

    I’m not sure how much of our job is cheer leading and convincing kids they can learn, but I do know my role as a coach is as important as what I know about science.

  2. I don't remember us talking before about the importance of involving the student is having the purpose and self-motivation to value the practice and hard work involved in studying a new concept and/or developing a new skill. But I think that may be a key to remediation. There is no inherent value to an 8th grader to develop good computation skills with fractions and decimals so that their score will go up on the state test taken in the spring. But their is power in helping the student realize that not developing those skills will hinder further growth with the bigger picture involved with learning math or in being able to use math to keep up with bigger ideas in science and in analysis.

  3. Motivation must be key to remediation. Knowing the purpose for the time and work involved must account for so much! Remember that the student wants inevitably to have autonomy with their learning and understanding. That must drive the willingness to remediate. And the support of the coach/teacher is related to the interconnected ness or involvement that the student requires. Then structure (the third corner of the needs triangle) can be seen as helpful in showing the student how to get to where they want to be. Cool!

  4. Interesting article in Time magazine this week (September 10th) suggesting the importance to building resiliency in students. That supports your cheer leading and coaching comments above. Helping students be aware of experiences that demand resiliency and helping students learn to develop resiliency are key, especially when working with our gifted students. They are so used to finding success with learning happen quickly that if a pursuit takes effort, they are more likely to just give up. Bernadette does a huge job of helping our gifted math students realize that they can push through and persevere when challenged and that they will come out even smarter because of the experience,