I was watching the Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll speak at a recent press conference, and it made me wonder what the similarities between a football team and a classroom might be. Here's what I found out:
Carroll spoke about Marshawn Lynch, and how his unique flair and style fit into the team mentality and program. In the classroom, there are so many unique individuals with interesting personalities and character traits, and it's about creating an environment where all of them can fit in, find a role, and be able to connect, learn and grow together. Will it be the perfect, happy community? Of course not. Even in a loving family with parents and siblings, you still have arguments, disagreements and even fights. The important matter is how you deal with this conflict, and bond even closer as a result.
He talked about the health of Jimmy Graham and others. Players missing a few days or even months. In the classroom, it's difficult to actually "field" a full squad of students. Some are sick, away for personal reasons, on vacation, or actually injured. The important part is trying to stay healthy on a consistent basis, which is probably why safety and health issues are so important. Catching up on missed time and lost work is a challenging process.
Carroll talked about how in-depth the evaluation of a player is before they are drafted. They have a long checklist of criteria. He said that Russell Wilson fit all of the check boxes, except probably the height issue. Of course, as they develop, the evaluation continues. Much in the same way, students are evaluated on a regular if not daily basis (formative, summative, metacognitive). Do they seem happy? Are they asking questions in class? What type of questions do they ask? Are they on task? Who are they playing with during DPAs? What activity are they doing? In small groups, how much are they contributing? In writing, do they express their ideas well? How creative are they during Wonder + IDEAS? How well do they do on their spelling and math quizzes? During formative assessment, do they have their thumbs up, sideways or down?
Every year the Seahawks believes they will win the Super Bowl. Of course, it helps when you've actually won it already. I believe it's the notion of having the end in mind from the start. Where do we see our students by the end of year? Do we have a curricular program in play that will guide them to achieve the learning goals they need to meet this year? Also, we need to remember that learning is a process: nothing happens overnight or in a vacuum. However, as teachers we need to have that hope that tomorrow will be a better day for both us and our students--especially on those really tough days!
Carroll talked about how he loved his group of receivers--Baldwin, Lockett, and Kearse--and how well they worked together, but still mentioned that there might be some competition from other players coming into the team. In the classroom, we generally try to make work cooperative and collaborative; nevertheless, at times, healthy, fun competition does bring out a certain fiery spirit in most of our students. In our class, we have Spelling, Math and Brain Question Battles whenever we have a few minutes to spare. It's never about points or winning, but there's still enough head-to-head battling that makes "winning" a certain accomplishment.
Carroll said that the team wants a balance offense, with both a running and passing game, and probably special teams and kicking, as well. He said that Wilson can throw 40 passes in a game when needed, but only if that's the best way to win that particular game. In the classroom, it's much the same: we want a balanced day that includes literacy and numeracy, DPA for physical activity, as well as content subjects like science, socials or art. Also, teacher talk vs. student talk balance is important, although the ratio should be much more for students. Speaking, listening, reading and writing should also be balanced.
Coaching in football requires a head coach, but there are many assistant coaches and other staff members. Just like in school, the teacher is the head coach, but there are other staff involved in the entire learning community (parents, LST, music, library, French, band, administration, custodial). Without them, it would be impossible to succeed in the classroom. Also, as much as the coach can teach, train and demonstrate, ultimately the players need to play the game and perform at their highest level in order to win the game. As the teacher, I try to prepare my students to achieve success, whether it's on a paragraph, reading, test, project, or presentation, it's still up to the students to prepare, study, learn, focus, work hard and then demonstrate their learning. When everyone is doing their part, everyone eventually wins.
Daniel H. Lee
This blog will be dedicated to sharing in three areas: happenings in my classroom and school; analysis and distillation of other educators' wealth of knowledge in various texts; insights from other disciplines and areas of expertise that relate and connect with educational practices.