Friday, November 13, 2016
What Makes Kids Run Cross Country?
We returned from the state cross county meet this past weekend and I headed off to three days of T-TESS training. Training, where we scripted video lessons and explored effective teaching practices while taking turns giving explicit, meaningful feedback. It was all very enlightening. We discussed the correlation between effective teaching practices and student achievement. It got me thinking about other successful schools, teachers, and programs. What made entire programs so successful and why in the world do kids choose to run cross country?
Coach Stone has built a program that produces district and regional champions that almost always qualify to go to state year after year. Is it because it's so much fun? Uh, no. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the kids aren't making the sacrifices they make because the process is fun. It's work. Students start arriving for practice around 5:20 a.m., they avoid sodas and fried food, and run on their days off when they don't have a prescribed workout. They run in the SUMMER. They ice their tired, strained muscles nightly - as in running themselves an ice bath. Voluntarily. Why do they do it? And what does Coach do that produces such loyalty to him and his program?
I don't pretend to know all of his methods. But I can share what I do know, what I've observed as a parent. He talks to the kids as a group, creating a culture of interdependence on each other. He fosters a strong sense of accountability to each other. These kids know when they run - they are running for the team. How can we create classrooms where students push each other and work to promote the success of the class as whole?
He talks to individuals and sets goals for each runner. Differentiation can occur while setting high expectations for each student. We often think of high expectations as being that one goal that we want all students to achieve. He sets high expectations that are specific to each runner. And when they meet that goal, he sets a new goal. Many of you have shared how you had individual conferences with your students, setting goals for each common assessment. Don't let this fall by the wayside, there is power in telling our students that we believe they are capable of performing at a higher level. Will they always meet those goals? Of course not, but if we systematically have purposeful conversations about goal setting; we will see progress. Your students want to perform for you. Are you willing to devote the time it takes to breathe confidence into them - one small, attainable goal at a time? I think you are and that this process is effective if you've built a trusting relationship with your students.
Cross Country is hard work, the practices aren't fun. The kids understand that difficult practices are necessary to be successful and they want to be successful. Converting fractions, long division, decoding poetry, making inferences about the conversion of energy is hard work. Of course we work hard to make it fun, but can we all just agree that long division isn't fun? What will we fall back on when the work is hard? Are we at a place where we've built relationships and set high expectations where your students want to perform for you? For each other? These are the competitive edges that a curriculum can't provide and department planning won't solve. Maybe it's time for us to move from teaching to coaching. When we coach, we're starting with the people and moving toward the goal instead of trying to force this process in reverse. Coaches have proven over time that it doesn't matter what the sport is; they can rally their teams to produce results.
11/13 CPI Training - Kyle, Pinkston, Castaneda, and Starek
11/17 504 Meetings
11/19 5th Grade Field Trip
11/20 Thanksgiving Lunches - Rainbow shirts