Amateur College Sports: Best for the Athletes??

As I sit here waiting for the University of Michigan’s appearance in the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament I cannot stop thinking about how so many times we hear folks speak about “what is best for the student athletes.”  Only one year ago, the NCAA changed a number of rules in response to Michigan taking their football team to Florida during the University’s Spring Break as part of their annual spring practices.  While it would be naive to think that there were not some logistical advantages for Michigan to do so with recruiting, that is not the point.

Fast forward to this evening.  Michigan is tipping off at 10:29 ET for their tournament.  If they’re lucky, they will leave the arena after some media obligations sometime between 1:00 and 2:00 am ET.  The NBA doesn’t play games that late at night and, last I checked, they are not amateur athletes.  If the primary focus of the NCAA is the student first then the athlete, why play games so late at night?  Is this really the best for the student-athletes and those at the University who are pulling for them?  Or is this more about he TV revenue associated with the NCAA tournament which is setting the schedules.  If that is the case, maybe we should talk about payment for the players who are bringing in the revenue.  On second thought, that seems to be a whole other post…….  Until next time and Go Blue!!

School Violence: Let it End!

On February 14th, 2018 the unimaginable took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida when 17 people lost their lives to an act of school violence.  I, for one, can not imagine the pain and anguish those in the school and surrounding community feel.  As the country moves forward, many are asking some difficult questions on ways to end school violence: Should teachers carry weapons?  Should America ban high-powered military and police grade weapons for civilian use?  Should we raise the gun age to 21?  What about the 2nd Amendment?  The questions go on and on.  One quick glance on Facebook will result in hundreds of opinions on the topic.

For me, we are asking the wrong questions.  As a society, we have a lack of trust in humanity resulting in FEAR.  In my opinion, what better place is there to care and nurture our youth than in schools?  How can we continue to push for all students to be “heard” while also allowing them to discover their strengths and unique abilities? How can we develop meaningful and collaborative relationships allowing students to solve real-world problems?  How do we foster each student as an individual who feels connected to a greater community?  How do we support students who have high ACE scores and provide an environment where they feel safe and supported?  How can we create personalize learning plans where students can discover and explore content and information which they are interested in or never before knew existed?   How can we create post-secondary plans for college, the work force, military enlistment, etc. for every student?  I believe if we, as a society, discuss these questions our schools would foster individuals who TRUST humanity and support one another.

As this country heals, we will continue to drill crisis management plans, sharpen our practices, communicate with our stakeholders, learn new instructional strategies, develop systems of support for all students, among others, to keep us safe. These are necessary and we will get better however, my hope and plea is simple: lets discuss the questions listed in the second paragraph rather than the first.  A couple of days ago I came across the following tweet from Marcey Raymond Kusper which summarizes my thoughts clearly:

 “In class today, the topic of school protests came to honor the 17 victims of the Florida Shooting came up.  One of my students said, “I think it’s stupid.  How about you make friends with 17 kids you wouldn’t normally instead of walking out of school.”  What a great conversation came out of it.  Smile at 17 people you normally wouldn’t smile at, say a kind work to 17 people who might not have had someone to speak to, open your heart to 17 people who might be hurting, offer friendship to 17 people who might have had none.  Now that could change the climate of the school.  17 reasons for change….. 17 reasons to make a difference.   Whats your 17???  I like that slogan.  Today warmed my heart to be a teacher.  #whatsyour17

For me, I have hopes and dreams for my children, my community, and my country to live in a world which is free of violence.  A world of genuine care and compassion.  A world working together to ensure the safety and well-being for generations to come.  We all have unique abilities and together, we can solve the greatest of problems.  School Violence?  WE WILL END IT!

Don’t Worry, Take a Chance!

For me, the thought of blogging, opening a twitter account, etc. are all things which, in the past, made me cringe and worry.  What would happen if someone disagreed with me?  What would a potential student, parent, or other community member think?  What if my thoughts were misinterpreted?  All of these were excuses when in fact, I, like everyone else out there have a story to tell and my thoughts and beliefs are important.

Taking a chance…..  For myself, this has always been something I am quite uncomfortable doing both personally and professionally.  What if I’m wrong?  A few weeks ago my wife and I took the family to see the movie “The Greatest Showman.”  In the movie, there was a quote which stood out to me.  The quote, “No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else”, made me reflect on who I am and who I want to be.  For me, the status quo is often the safest route especially when things have been working and yielding results however, that doesn’t always mean it’s the best decision or the right decision.

The New Year allows everyone to choose a resolutions such as exercising, eating better, and reading more.  For me, I am going to look into taking more chances on myself, my family, the people I work with, and Our Kids.  Most importantly, I am going to trust my instinct, not worry, and take chances.  It is with these chances where we have an opportunity to make a difference.

Protecting Constitutional Rights but do we set an example for Free Speech?

A while back there was an article written about a student in a public who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and, consequently, was forcibly removed from his seat to make stand.  Later, the same student was “berated” and “yelled at” for his decision.  This article has allowed me to reflect on my professional practices.  Obviously,  school districts must respond in a manner supporting students and their constitutional rights.

Regardless of personal beliefs, public schools should support students to make their own personal decisions.  As staff we must demonstrate a willingness and understanding those opinions which may differ from our own.  The purpose of schools should be to support students making educated decisions rather than create rules, policies, or procedures asking students to conform to a culture, lifestyle, etc.

The rationale for my choice to publish my thoughts on this issues does not come from the article, student constitutional rights, school district response, or anything associated with the article at all.  This day in age, Facebook and other Social Media streams tend to be a choice for many to get their news and to engage in discussion.  In a Facebook response to the article, a member shared they believed the school should develop policy for students to stand for the Pledge, National Anthem, among others.  Their belief, one would assume, would be centered around “respect” for the county and those who have protected the many freedoms we have.  In a replying post, a person points out (correctly I might add) that students freedom of speech is protected constitutionally.  As I stated earlier, social media provides a platform for this type of discussion however, the conversation which follows is the basis of my post.

A person, who in obvious disagreement with the original thought, ends the post with a classic one-liner: “Why don’t you try reading the Constitution.”  Going back to my original thought of supporting people of various opinions.  Too many times, we take unnecessary steps to “cut-down” or “belittle” others who have different thoughts and/or opinions.  We as adults, have an obligation to teach our children to respectfully disagree with others without unnecessary negativity.  Remember, the in the article, we initially were defending the students right to practice their own beliefs.  Lets also remember to do the same when discussion on social media and other platforms.