The Last Week

The last week of classes and in this case the last week of school, are truly a relief for both staff and students, but like I often say to all my students around Christmas time or the Holiday Season, school is a lot of different things for a lot of different people. Many students feel like school is their only safe place. To see that go away is extremely troubling for them. Clearly no high school kid would ever admit that, but many feel that way.  Just like many hockey players would never discuss how difficult the end of a season really is or the struggle with the cultural side of the game was and is. You see there’s a code to follow when it comes to the game of hockey, but there’s no unwritten code to follow when it comes to a high school aged kid discussing their emotions or feelings. Obviously, that seldomly happens so that’s why it’s so important for us teachers to always check or create an atmosphere where it’s ok to talk about mental health.

It’s been incredibly difficult to read and pick up on how anyone has been feeling over the last two and half years. That’s why it’s so important to put the curriculum aside from time to time and make a deeper “real” connection with kids or at least try.

We witnessed just how important schools were and what they do for kids at the beginning of the pandemic. The classroom can take on its own complexion very quickly. The dynamic from one class to another is truly mystifying at times. I’m certainly not the be all end all of teaching, but I really try to make a concerted effort to connect with kids and it should be the same way in the game of hockey.

Before we can teach we need to set parameters in place, before anyone can coach you need to get to know the person way before the player.

Getting to know players on your team should be a lot easier than getting to know 120 or so students, but as teachers we always have to create an environment where every kid feels safe, comfortable, supported and relaxed so they can learn.

It’s always special to sit down and read answers on Final Projects, for a multitude of reasons, a few answers caught my eye this time around and I wanted to share. It just goes to show that everyone is unique and everyone’s perspective is different.

I learned a long time ago that our words and actions as teachers and coaches for that matter impact students so much, both negatively and positively. That’s why it’s critical that we create a safe and welcoming environment within our classes.

Here’s the section and question from my Social Studies 9 Final Project and two students’ subsequent answers.

Section 6: Why is History So Important? In 10 to 12 lines answer the following concept questions a) What have you learned about the study of history this semester? b) What aspects of the class did you enjoy? c) Do you believe in the saying that “history repeats itself” if so provide examples, if not, provide examples

“I really enjoyed listening to Mr. Eagles talking to us about his stories and other peoples stories, it’s like a life lesson.” Student 1

“I liked how when we first got into class, we go right to work and it is silent, I have never been in a class where it has been as quiet as this class, and I love the quiet, I can focus more on my work. It also makes me happy when every now and then, Mr. Eagles would check in on us and how we were doing, I do not remember having a teacher that would honestly ask us how we were doing. Now sure, I’ve had teachers pull me out of class and ask if I am ok, but never a class wide subject.”  Student 2

I get emotion when I read these types of answers, it means so much to me as a teacher. It’s reassuring to know that the periodic “connection” assignments within my classes in some small way helped students feel more comfortable. I believe they are so invaluable in the today’s classroom and beyond. Just like my long time coach and mentor (God rest his soul) Dale Turner always said, it’s all about “the little things.” The “little things” in teaching and in coaching. Checking in with students and players is must, providing reinforcement, discipline, guidance, structure, fairness, inspiration and above all letting them see your human side and that we care for them is critical. For students and players to know that someone will be there for them is everything. Again I’m 21 years in this profession and I’m not the be all end all of teaching, but it’s my hope that every kid feels comfortable, welcome, safe and accepted and supported in my classroom and every class, just like they should on a team and in dressing rooms. That’s the ultimate goal I strive for and in my opinion when that’s in place the real learning can start!

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