Monday, July 07, 2008

there is no way of speaking about it logically

The above is your must-read link for the day, though reading it spun my mind off in a completely different direction.

I think hard when I read these words, as a now former teacher in the Recovery School District in New Orleans. When Orson writes, "Then, you have a new saddest thing in the world to put on the gold medal podium of sad things, because the stories and circumstances are even worse when you hear them for yourself," I have to stop reading for a moment. I drift off into the year's memories, so fresh and raw even in July.

Two other quotes really strike home for me based on my experience. The first: "Those of you blessed with impulse control, discipline, and a solid ethical foundation didn’t pull it from the aether; it came to you via a series of benefactors, witting or unwitting, who helped you become the person you are.

There are places, though, where these benefactors do not exist. In some cases sport and coaching provides it for them.

And the second: "Seeing both sides of the coin–the potential realized and the horrific waste–sports is really the primary academy for many football players. It is their ethics class, their economics lesson, their surrogate family."

I think of this when looking back on my year of teaching, and knowing deep down, with the same faith that I have that should I jump into the Mississippi River I will get wet, that teaching my students the rudimentary fundamentals of football and team sports was the most important thing I did this year. These lessons were more important and lasting than anything I taught them in actual class, and gave them a far greater sense of self and accomplishment than anything that came out of a book.

I also remember how thin sports-as-class and sports-as-extracurriculars were on the ground this last year. I'm sure this isn't just a problem in New Orleans, either. We sacrificed a great deal in order to focus on English and Mathematics. All that sacrifice for a score on a test.

And behavior problems were the biggest single challenge faced by the schools this year. Ever wonder what class helped teach sportsmanship? Ever wonder what class helped teach how to work as a team to acheive goals?

The mind can only take so many hours of academic practice a day. At some point, the energy of young people must be released in other ways. Should we wait for that energy to explode while sitting in the classroom for the sixth straight hour? Or, would it be more productive to spend some time focusing on things like music, drama and team sports, where the kids can focus that energy while using their minds at the same time?

That's one of the solutions Ethan asked about. It isn't the only solution, but it is one of them. Especially for anywhere experiencing a high number of broken households, children coping with attention issues, a desperate lack of structure in their personal lives and health problems caused by obesity issues.


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