Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On Sportsmanship

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." - Philippians 2:3

"Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him." - Proverbs 24:17-18

“When you get in the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.” – Paul “Bear” Bryant[1]

Unabashedly, I am a huge sports fan. Athletics has been a central part of my life and my growth as a person. In fact, I would attest that my athletic experiences were probably more formative than my experiences in the classroom.  To touch on but a few life lessons, I learned how to succeed, how to fail, how to lead, and how to follow. I learned the power of resiliency and the efficacy of assiduousness. Consequently, it is with no small degree of dismay that I have watched the worldwide decline of sportsmanship. I must admit, too, that I am fairly appalled at what passes for fandom in today’s culture. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but shouldn’t we be cheering for our team, instead of against our opponent? When did taunting and humiliating your opponent become an acceptable part of American sports? Why are Philadelphia Eagles patrons and Duke’s “Cameron Crazies” considered “good fans”? It seems to me that this strikes at the very heart of the concept of honor that we are trying to impart at HA.  I told the students when we had our Honor Code Ceremony this year, “Honor is not just about not lying, cheating, or stealing; it’s about how you treat others from whom you have nothing to gain.” I believe we can tell a lot about the culture of schools by how they treat their athletic opponents “from whom they have nothing to gain.”

I saw some post on Twitter regarding the football game this Thursday that got me thinking about sportsmanship. This is my first experience with the HA v. Providence football rivalry, but if it’s like any other rivalry, I imagine that things have gotten fairly heated, at times. Monday morning, I addressed our student body about sportsmanship, so I thought it would be a good time to share my thoughts on the matter with the HA community.

As we approach this football game, I hope that you will take the time to reflect on the hard work and dedication that the athletes from both teams have exhibited over the course of the season. The best way to honor our athletes is to exhibit good sportsmanship. Briefly, let me share with you some of my views that I have partially borrowed from Dr. James Garland, the former president of my undergraduate alma mater, Miami University (OH):

·      Good sports treat opposing teams and their fans with respect and courtesy. Good sports are humble when they win. They accept their victories with poise, without gloating or demeaning the other team. Good sports are not rude.

·      Good sports understand that losing is part of athletic competition. They accept their defeats gracefully, without pointing fingers or making excuses. They view their losses as opportunities for growth and further development of their skills.

·      Good sports keep their emotions in check. They understand that stress and pressure are part of athletics, and that the true test of character is when the disappointment, the bitterness, and the frustrations of a game are the greatest.

·      And finally, good sports keep a sense of perspective. They know that the other team is their opponent, not their enemy, and that the game is a contest, not a battle. They know that if they conduct themselves with dignity, they will always walk off the field as winners, no matter what the numbers on the scoreboard may show.

Houston Academy athletics has always epitomized a winning tradition, integrity, a commitment to the academic development of players, and good sportsmanship. I have been incredibly proud of the success of our teams this year, but I have been even more proud of the comportment and enthusiasm of our fans and athletes.  Win or lose, I know we will continue exhibiting good sportsmanship this Thursday and in the rest of our athletic contests.

Go Raiders!

[1] Also attributed to Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi, Woody Hayes, Joe Paterno, and Barry Sanders’ father, but we’re in Alabama!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Best Way to Predict the Future Is to Invent It: Harnessing Technology in Schools

While perusing social media, I revisited an article I had read earlier this summer Independent School magazine:

The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Invent It: Harnessing Technology in Schools

Here is the quote that I believe is particularly apropos to HA:

Just as the hybrid gas-electric motor represents a key to our energy future, hybrid thinking can take us farther down productive educational paths. Instead of the either-or debates that have characterized so much of education reform (phonics vs. whole language, computational skills vs. mathematical thinking, face-to-face instruction vs. online courses), it’s time we take a both-and approach — weave the best traditional elements of teaching with inventive digital learning to create a truly fresh approach to education.  
This blended approach integrating digital learning with the power of face-to-face relationships, between teachers and students and among students as peer tutors, is proving more effective than either alone

I watched Mrs. Snell's 5th grade class today. They had used their MacBooks to type a story in which they had to integrate their vocabulary words throughout the story. Now, certainly, this same assignment could have been done with pencil and paper, but by using their MacBooks, the students were able to integrate some practical, real-world technology skills into their assignment. First, they utilized keyboarding skills; second, they used a word processing program; third, they used their grammar check to make sure they were using appropriate grammar and punctuation.  One student actually noted that they had originally used incorrect grammar, but they were able to correct their mistake before completing the assignment. In a sense, the student was getting instant feedback without having to wait for a teacher to provide it.

At the same time, the students were exhibiting a number of 21st century learning skills.  They were using creativity to write the story, they were presenting their stories to each other (communication), and they were critically reacting to each other's work and evaluating ways that they integrated the vocabulary (critical thinking and collaboration). Of course, too, by actually using the vocabulary (as opposed to just memorizing a definition), research tells us that these 5th graders in Mrs. Snell's class will be much more likely to remember and use their new vocabulary words in the future (higher ACT scores!). Moreover, they had FUN doing the activity, and they were proud to share their stories with me.

THIS, is what you are getting at HA that I believe you won't get anywhere else in the Wiregrass -- technology and 21st century learning.  It doesn't get any better than that.