I’ve got to tell you.
For years, I’ve been a NON fan of John Calipari. Seriously, a NON fan.
There is something about the idea of a teacher endorsing the idea of ‘one and done’–the concept of collegiate basketball players going to college for one year and then going to the pros. This is the antithesis of education, right? Shouldn’t we as educators be pushing each of our students to get the most education that they can?
Yes, we should.
But what we should push even more than that….is their own goals for their lives.
New research on student achievement indicates that although a competent teacher, minimal stressors, good feelings about schools and friends are important, there is something even MORE important. Students who know where they are, where they want to go, and how to get there are going to be more successful in school. There is freedom in that for me, especially in a T1 school. The responsibility for student achievement rests with them, and their ability to drive themselves forward towards the ends that they want for themselves.
This weekend, my husband and I watched the 30 for 30 documentary One and Not Done about John Calipari. I saw so much of myself and my teaching in that man. I really couldn’t NOT like him anymore. Because, really. Who doesn’t like themselves! LOL.
Here are the 5 lessons that I took from the film that I think are key for teachers working with urban youth.
1.) Home visits are a necessity.
Throughout the movie, several of his players talked about the impact that it had on them that Coach Cal came to their house. Some of his players lived in horrible neighborhoods. He didn’t care. He still showed up. Talked about the high expectations that he had for the young man he was recruiting and laid the groundwork with parents that he would be parenting their child while they were in his care. That’s huge. We talk about how these kids are ‘ours’ TO our kids, but do we do that with the parents? Lay it on them, teachers. They need to know we are serious about their kids. Let’s put it right there on them, in their house!
2.) Never be afraid to tell your students your true feelings.
Throughout the movie, there were several players who talked about the impact that their coach had on them with what he SAID. What he SAID that made an impact. In this age of social media and Pinterest, resist the urge to maximize optics. Often, what you DON’T see is more important than what you can share on a video or in a pin. TALK. TO. YOUR. KIDS. ABOUT. REAL. STUFF. They can take it. I promise.
3.) No one fails. Ever.
Do not allow your students to think that failure is an option. Not in your room. School is work, but it is worth it. Build a culture of excellence. Insist on it tirelessly. Never give up on helping your kids make that next step towards their dream. Teach, reteach, retest. Ask colleagues for help. Introduce technology as a method of review. Partner students up with others. Ask another teacher to bring their class into yours so they can do a re-teach and you can watch so that you can learn some new tricks. It really doesn’t matter what you do, you MUST make sure that they see your tenacity for their goals! In one part of the documentary, Coach Calipari tells one of his star players that he needed to take the other guys on the team WITH him to the NBA. As the player reflected on it in the movie, he said that was key for him. That he take the lead and bring everyone else up. The next year, he and the other four starters were drafted in the first round of the NBA draft. That’s powerful stuff, friends.
4.) You are there to help them achieve THEIR goals.
In my classroom, many of my learners have been retained at least once. Their goal was to go to fourth grade. So, this year, it’s with that end in mind. We set up goals that are about them. The more students feel like they know that they are moving forward in a way that is making them successful, the better they will feel about school, and the more the behavioral issues will be at a minimum.
This year in particular, I often remind my fellas that when people talk about our class, they notice how the boys have grown academically, emotionally and so forth. This is not really about me. They are doing the work…for themselves. They are moving themselves forward. I remind them all the time, our success is about them. Them taking hold of their own dreams and moving toward them. I’m just a guide.
5.) Be a little crazy sometimes.
Sometimes while we’re in the process of teaching the students some lesson about character or behavior, we get a bit intense. That’s okay. Letting them see a bit of passion is good. You know what else is good? Letting your hair down a bit too. In one part of the film, the coach lets all the guys mess up his hair when they won the national title. Apparently, Coach Cal is a bit vain about his hair! LOL! He was serious throughout the season, but…when it was over, he was ready to let loose a bit. That’s always okay!
I still believe that kids should go to school and get a degree. I would want that for my own kid. That said, for the majority of his players, they wanted to be able to take care of their mom. That’s not a bad goal either. If going to school for a year, and being part of an elite program can help them get to THEIR dream for their families, I am all for it. At the end of the day, I teach with that same type of tenacity. Not with the end result of passing one high stakes test for my career or my school grade, but to see my students grow up to experience meeting their best expectations for themselves.
Watch the film and tell me your thoughts, teacher!