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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Getting Them in the Game (Dear Katie V3 #2)

Dear Katie,

Last week, your grandfather took a trip to a park in one of the retirement communities where he now lives.  He noticed a group of guys playing softball with ages ranging from 50-80 years old (the oldest was 83).  Your grandfather played a lot of baseball/softball when he was young, but now in his 70's, he hadn't ran on to a baseball diamond in over 15 years.  As he was watching, a big guy named John came over an asked

"Do you want to play?"

At first your grandfather said "No" citing the fact he didn't have a glove, but John said that there were enough gloves to borrow.  The next thing you know he was playing a pick up game of softball and it looks like he intends to make playing softball a weekly event in his schedule.

How does this story relate to the classroom?  In the classroom, you as the teacher need to be like the guy John.  You need to get all your students "in the game".  Are you making that effort?  You don't need to get every kid raising their hand for every question by the end of the year, but you do need to make every student know that he/she is cared for and a part of the "team".

There are two types of people.  The first type does not mind being stars on your baseball team, they are flashy and let their presence known.  They are the "players" who are always giving interviews.  The second type stays quiet and doesn't mind being the spectators.  They are necessary to play the game, but you may not know what they are thinking if you don't ask.  Neither is a problem and it is not wrong to be either type.

The problem is that all-star people have no problem making connections with others because they are the ones interacting the most in the game.  However, the fans will stay quietly in the stands, only "cheering" when appropriate, and not making those connections unless someone pulls them in, like a John.  And for the teacher it is easy to allow yourself to believe that since the all-stars are performing like all-stars, there is no need for the fans.

Don't assume that just because someone is in your class
That they feel like they are involved in "the game".

Work at giving field crew kids opportunities to be all-stars.  Here are some ideas:

1) First, realize that some fans are content where they are, so do not push them to be something they are not, but always offer opportunities.

2) Say "Hi" to ALL your students, avoid playing favorites, ask the quiet kids their opinions (you'll discover that most quiet kids aren't shy and have a lot to say when asked).

3) DON'T allow kids to make their own groups.  The all-star kids build their teams with ease, even pulling in friends that are fans.  But if a kid who is a fan is not really close with any all-star kids in the class, they will not go up to a group because they will feel like they are intruding.  It will create undue awkwardness and uneasiness for that child.

For every kid who shouts out "can we make our own groups" 
there is another kid thinking to himself/herself "Please Don't"

I think everyone (kids and adults) want to feel included and want to be involved.  Some are comfortable letting others know that and quickly get their gloves on to play in the game.  Others will remain "in the stands" waiting for someone to call them down to the field, believing they are imposing if they are not invited.  Neither view is wrong, it's just different personalities.  

The teacher-leader creates a welcoming classroom
and creates opportunities for everyone to get in the game.

The next week, I visited your grandparents and went down to the field to watch my Dad play softball like I had many times as a young boy.  As I was standing near the fence watching him play second base as if he was a kid again, a smile broke across my face.  Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a big guy approach me and he said:

"Hey, do you want to play?"

Make sure you are asking the same question of everyone in your classroom.  Get everyone who wants to play into the game.

Uncle Kevin


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