Young People: How to Transform School Culture
As a coach for several high school sports, I’ve taught sportsmanship and respect over the years. In my past roles, I was always focused on promoting unity among competitors. Recently, though, I’ve been asked by more coaches to focus on diversity and equality in athletics. I don’t want to think too much about sports being a way to bond our school communities, but I’ll admit that anytime I coach anyone who isn’t white, or not just one race, I am happy.
When I think about educating young people at a time when the negative biases some have against people different from them and race continue to permeate our culture, I question the value of traditional education.
Classroom Instruction #1, Focusing on Certain Topics: Instead of answering questions around television programming or trouble-shooting, I’d like to focus on how science, technology, engineering, and math apply to real world life. Even education students who use standardized tests instead of reading books may be coming to these classes deficient in these areas. In addition, instead of stating, “Americans are Neanderthals,” I’d like to focus on others groups in the United States who are often dismissed, such as Native Americans, Jews, Hindus, Hispanics, and especially Asian Americans.
Interestingly, the vast majority of our nation’s diversity isn’t the case outside of the classroom, and this also should take part as a part of education. Two weeks ago, Yale researchers released a report about the role that identity plays in education. Their research showed that gender, race, and ethnicity affect how gender and race are taught. By presenting balanced perspectives on races and gender, classrooms can teach better and more accurate lessons.
My Background, Focus, and Results as a Coaches Allow Me to Serve as a Role Model
Like many coaches, I chose to be an educator after graduation from college. It was my dream job. Prior to becoming a coach, I was a grade school teacher. While I enjoyed that role, I became frustrated with being the only person in my classroom and with trying to emulate my teachers. I knew I wanted to be more flexible with my tactics, and that was the main reason why I pursued coaching. As a career choice, it seemed like a natural fit.
As a coach, I knew what it was like to follow leaders in sports, to constantly engage in discussion about all aspects of the game and to understand what goes into making the game successful. For coaching, my style is progressive. I mix it up by speaking in a quiet tone, letting students show off and communicate verbally, and promoting collaboration. In doing so, I teach that some classes can incorporate similar elements that all athletes should understand and have at their disposal. This includes as simple as recognizing a teammate when they speak up in a competition. My approach has helped many of my students develop great leadership skills and overcome the common struggles sports often bring.
As my coach role evolved, I began to see that it was important to help students learn not only skills and basketball strategies, but also the importance of a diverse cross-section of the population around them. This has become a necessity for ensuring success in life, sports, and community. From many different walks of life, I’ve been able to demonstrate the importance of developing broad interests, empathy, and an open-minded perspective. This is because of the amount of time I dedicate to community service and volunteer work outside of coaching. As a result, I’ve been able to witness first-hand the positive impact service can have on everyone in a school. These experiences helped me understand that there are many ways to help others and they aren’t mutually exclusive. In my coaching, and my personal life, I want to make a difference.
In my role as an educator, I have done my best to bring my perspectives to the classroom, and I believe that will help students to make academic and behavioral improvements. But it takes more than my perspective to cultivate long-term change, so in addition to my work to inspire education and inspire athletes, I must bring my entire self to the classroom and encourage others to lead by example. I don’t want to sacrifice my passion for what I do. I want to help everyone have a life-long, passion-driven passion for their lives.