Friday, October 28, 2016

Winning at Sports and Powerful Educational Experiences

As the Storm Lake Tornado football team prepares to play their first ever football playoff game tonight, and as Dylan Cavanaugh prepares to run in the state cross country meet tomorrow, I can't help but ponder the importance of these experiences to our students' education. We spend far too much time trying to quantify and analyze learning through tests and grading when what we should really be working on are the learning experiences we create for our students.

As our community members, parents, and students decorate their houses, write their thoughts, and create videos of this magical football season, I think about how we could make sure all of our students have amazing experiences like these. Winning sports seasons are intrinsically memorable learning experiences - for the whole community. However, there are so many ways to create other, although less dramatic, memories for our students. Memories that coincidentally teach valuable lessons and increase learning.

Two books talk about the importance of innovative new learning experiences for our students: Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Kids Deserve It by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome. I recommend you take a look at them. They veer away from curriculum, standards, and assessments and talk instead about instructional strategies and relationships.

Think about what our athletes have gained this fall. Perhaps we need to consider how we can provide that for everyone.

Our students need to feel special. They need to feel like a part of a community. They need to experience things in life that touch their hearts. They deserve an education that emphasizes the whole life learning experience, not just math reasoning, historical facts, and reading fluency. In fact, if we really want our students to learn curricular things, we better work harder at creating an environment that makes being absent unthinkable because of the amazing experiences students know they will miss if they are gone.

Wouldn't it be great if we could create exciting highlight videos for each and every one of our classrooms each year?

Good luck, tonight and tomorrow, Storm Lake athletes. These are precious moments in time, and none of us want to miss a second of the experience.

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