World Cup = Education

I first really got into soccer a little over 15 years ago when I was asked to coach the varsity boys team at Guthrie High School.  I had no idea what I was doing but did it with passion!  Three years in Guthrie, five years at Olathe South High School (got to coach boys and girls and this was super duper fun), and the rest at Edmond Memorial with the girls program.  I have only had the opportunity to be a head coach for the first three years of my coaching career.  I spent all of the rest working as a varsity assistant and coaching JV and C teams.  I loved every minute (almost) and loved the relationships that I formed with my players.  Soccer has been like a drug for me, I got just a little bit needed more and more.  I have been involved in three state championship games – the winning sideline twice and first loser the other.  Those state title wins were epic and that one loss – horrible…

The past month I have been sick with World Cup Fever – it has confined me to my couch with cold beverage in hand for extended periods of time.  The tournament culminated today with a most exciting final match between Germany and Argentina.  Germany scored a very late goal to win their fourth World Cup Title.  Watching these games, with ISTE sandwiched in there, and thinking like I do about teaching…led me to notice several similarities.

Great Coaches = Equal Great Teachers

Only 32 teams qualify for the world cup and some really good teams with really bad coaches did not make it.  Just like in schools all over our nation – great teachers get great results from their students.  It doesn’t matter what kind of students those teachers get, they go to work.  They create amazing game plans (lessons) and set up an atmosphere and culture of improvement.  Students have lots of games that they have to win in qualifying: benchmarks, semester exams, finals, spelling tests, AR tests…All of these little games matter.  You can even lose a couple along the way as long as the team improves AND at the end of qualification you make it into the final tournament (Standardized Testing).  Great coaches get the most out of their players, no matter how talented the player.  Great teachers get the most out of their students, no matter where those students are educationally.

Its A Marathon Not A Sprint

The entire World Cup tournament takes a month to complete.  Teams have to plan accordingly, some players play brilliantly in each game.  Some need a little time off or limited minutes.  To make it to the final match, teams have to finish in the top two in their group, then win several single elimination games.  Getting our students ready for our final (high stakes testing) is similar.  It takes an entire year to get our students ready for that last match.  Teachers and students sometimes need small breaks along the way (spring break, Christmas break, fall break…) to get enough of a rest to be ready for the next part of the year.  Our group matches (educators/students) are all of the little assessments we give along the way.  By the time testing rolls around, we know who is going to make it and who is not.  The knock out phase are all of those high stakes tests our students take every April/May.  Most students take several different tests each year (just like Germany had to win several different single elimination matches) with each student ultimately earning enough high scores along the way to “win.”

Dodgy Officiating At Times

And like every great sporting event, the officials make some mistakes.  Some of those mistakes are glaring and easy to see to anyone with half an eye on the game.  The penalty kick awarded in the opening game for example…really?  Anyone watching that could tell it was a dive, yet the referee awarded a penalty.  Here is where it gets interesting – since he awarded the penalty the fouling player should have been given a red card and dismissed from competition, but he wasn’t.  A double dipsy doo of bad decision making…Now as bad as the mistakes were I don’t think that the official was trying to make a bad call.  He had to make a decision without any slow-mo replay.  Our legislative leaders, I hope, are not trying to make bad decisions with education.  Some of their decisions are interesting, some maddening, some, well…But there are times when one poor decision is compounded by a second one: Common Core for example.  Whether for or against is a different matter all together, but to vote for it, then vote against it and revert to old standards, which may or may not have been used over the past couple of years…What is a teacher to do?  Just like the players do – we complain about the officiating, but since they control the game we play on!  The players do not have a choice once the decision has been made.  Oh man can they fuss, and carry on and act like goobers…But back to the players, they have to play on and finish the game.  Teachers do also, it doesn’t matter what changes are made or bad policy determined, we have to teach our students.

And after that final whistle is blown and the teams go home, qualification starts again…August is almost here…

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