Hampton Bays Middle School

Monday Memo #8

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Dear T.E.A.M. :

I want to take a moment to thank you for your time in the classroom, but also, for devoting some time in your own professional learning. Your personal feedback on last week's Faculty Meeting "Speed Learning" activity is valuable and important to me. Please keep your thoughts flowing on how else we can grow our communication, collaboration, and professional learning. And, when you have a "Eureka!" moment or discover a resource that you're going to share with your students, please keep sharing that with me as well. I love hearing about your success stories in your classrooms.

So the term "Speed Learning" has me thinking quite a bit. Because, as great educators know, learning, in almost every case, is far from a "speedy" process.

This week marks the start of my seventh season as a local church league basketball coach, coaching 5th and 6th graders. Not only are these kids in one of two grades, but the league is also co-ed, and depending on which neighboring town the kids are coming from, they are in either elementary or middle school. We have girls who are nearly six-feet tall and boys who are approaching five feet. If I didn't know any better, I'd think I was...in middle school!

It's like a new class for me - 15 ballplayers, all ready to start a new season together, and as their coach, I can't wait! It feels like the first days of school all over again.

One of the features of our practice sessions is a focus on fundamentals. For example, during practice we stop to break down the steps to how to shoot an effective layup. Why a lay-up? Because it's one of the most high-impact, easily overlooked, and underestimated elements of the game. In many cases, when kids are able to make a lay-up, it becomes the difference between winning and losing games.

As you may know, the mechanics involved are important. Breaking this process down into a series of steps allows us to identify where we need to focus and leads us to getting it right over and over again. And when we identify a flaw in the process, we stop, we address it, and we correct it. Then we practice that element of the shot, specific to each player. This eventually leads to muscle memory. The skill work combined with individual, specific praise seems to do the trick for many kids. In turn, players create good habits that are only reinforced by consistent practice of the correct method of shooting a layup.

As a coach, I follow up with praising the process for each player. Generally, this individualized coaching seems to be effective during practices and, over time, we usually see our players "take" to our advice. Of course, as sometimes clumsy adolescents, they still have some difficulty managing their limbs and staying coordinated, but over the ten years that I've coached various sports, I can honestly say, this approach has worked.

During games can sometimes be a different story. With lots of competing variables at play, from different teammates, to nerves, fatigue and emotion, to a packed and noisy gym, I've seen kids toss aside what they've learned, getting worked up in response to these variables in their environment.

So how do I handle this, as their coach? During the heat of the moment in a game, I call a time-out. I gather the players. We huddle in a circle on the court. I get down on one knee. I look in their eyes. And I ask one question.

"Are you having fun?"

Then I remind them of something very important to the process of playing a fast-paced game like basketball.

"Slow...is fast."

I repeat it, like a mantra. Maybe I do it to keep myself calm, but it seems to help the 10, 11, and 12 year-olds I'm coaching. It serves to remind them that if we take a step back, and remember what we've practiced and how we practice, that we can re-center ourselves on accomplishing what we've set out to do, as a team.

Now, the league in which I coach is a church league and an instructional league -- and they're firm on that message. But you know what? Wrapping ourselves around this mantra, as a team, seems to get us back on the same page. And I've seen that, time and time again, be the difference between one player's lay-up going in or not.

So what does this have to do with Faculty Meetings, speed learning, or our work as educators? That's for you to decide, discuss, and reflect upon. All I know is, I appreciate learning with all of you and from all of you. But I still learn the most from the students with whom I interact. And for that, I am grateful.

Thank you for your dedication to our students and our middle school program.







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Let's keep sharing and celebrating the great things happening in our classrooms and school.

Remember...We are LEARNERS first.

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