Monday, January 30, 2006

To Play or Not to Play?

There's a lively discussion over at Ms. Frizzle's place about the best ways to treat student athletes. In her school, kids have to earn points for the privilege of playing. That's a good idea, but systemwide, standards are certainly lower.

I have great respect for coaches who demand academic performance for their kids, and outright disdain for those who help them avoid the consequences of failing in school.Our school soccer team, for years, was run by a guy who'd get athletic scholarships for talented athletes, ignoring the fact that they had no chance whatsoever to graduate.

He used to come in my classroom uninvited, this aged, greatly overweight, baseball-capped, whistle-carrying character who could no more play soccer than fly, demanding I release students who did no work whatsoever in my classes. Upon my refusal, he'd tell the players to take the bus, promising to delay the game for them. Upon the principal's receipt of my letters of complaint, he denied this in writing. The principal would quietly tell me she agreed with me. Hopefully, she wasn't telling the coach the same thing.

Kids with good coaches can learn far more than just sports. Also, if you have a kid passionate about sports who's not doing well in your class, there's no motivation quite like a talk with that kid's coach.

I had a great, talented baseball player in my class. At some point, he started slacking off in his schoolwork. When I spoke to his coach, the guy asked permission to speak to the kid. He then dragged him into the hall and read him the riot act, leaving no doubt that no matter how talented he was, he would not be playing baseball unless he passed English.

That's being a coach, a teacher, and a positive role model. They should have cloned that guy when they had the chance. With Bloomberg in charge, that's never gonna happen.
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