Notes from the Sub Terrain is an occasional — okay, spasmodic — set of observations from a certified teacher working as a substitute.
The assignment said “upper level, basic biology.” But upon arriving at the school the Sub learned the teacher to be replaced was one of the basketball coaches. The school’s team had won in the state playoffs the previous night, and the coach was assigned to scout the next week’s opposition in a game on the other end of the state. Cool.
Oh — except for this: The first hour was basketball, in the gym. The Sub wasn’t dressed for it, the Sub doesn’t play much basketball, let alone coach it. Worse, the assignment had said nothing about a first hour – the bell had just rung, and The Sub was late. What room? “Green Gym.”
Where is the Green Gym? the Sub asked. “I have no clue,” the substitute coordinator said. There are several gyms, but they are not in exactly the same place. “I think it’s near the arena.”
Trudging to the attendance office, the Sub got crude directions. Only 10 minutes late so far.
Found the Green Gym. 22 students were dutifully engaged in four different games of basketball. Notes from the coach said the students should play “pick-up” games for the period.
As the Sub walked into the gym, two students from the full-court games broke off and ran over, volunteering to help with attendance, so no roll would need to be called. There were no absences. Attendance took a couple of minutes, and the students went back to their games.
Every few minutes one of the teams in one of the games would hit 21, or some other magic number, and the game would end. When two or more games ended, the students designated different teams and went at it again. After about 20 minutes someone yelled something about getting enough water, and the students took breaks individually to get a drink.
The Sub recognized many of the kids. They were, many of them, troublemakers in other classes. Here they made no trouble. Disputes about fouls were settled quickly and amicably, and the games went go on. Good shots, or good defensive plays got vocal approval from all quarters. Hot dogging got jeers: “Just play!”
For 70 minutes the games rolled quickly. Then, without prompting, one of the students rolled out a ball cart, put a couple of balls away and headed to the locker room. Within three minutes all the balls were on the cart, the cart went into a closet, the lights were turned out and the gymnasium was empty.
The Sub wants to know why all classes can’t be that way, with the students doing the work, willingly and happily, without complaint, without prompting or prodding, and finishing and cleaning up on time.
The Sub noted that most of the students did not shower, but instead masked themselves in clouds of Axe body spray, which the Sub thought unhygienic.
The Sub said he later learned that the class was the junior varsity basketball team, mostly. He said the discipline they showed was impressive.
The varsity team won their next playoff game, and headed to the state tournament. The Sub said that if they are as disciplined in the big things as the junior varsity players are in little things on the basketball floor, they will win the state championship.
How can we restructure other classes to get the benefits of student self-discipline? the Sub wonders. Why don’t the students make the connection that discipline makes them champions in one area, and strive for similar discipline in other areas?
Why don’t the teachers, coaches and administrators make the same connection?