Eat Your Vegetables Children

Last week we started a new unit that I had never tried before. I am sure that somewhere someone has been doing this and I have stolen it from them. To that person, I apologize.

I introduced this game on the basketball court. The court was divided into thirds. On each third, there were four students. On the first third the blue team was on offense and the shirts were on defense. In the middle third, both teams were receiving the ball and progressing it to their offensive players. On the final third the shirts were offense and the blue team was the defense. There were two basketballs in play at one time. If the ball went out of bounds or a basket was made the defense in that third retrieved the ball and used the rules of basketball to progress it to the middle zone.

The defense could steal a pass or a dribble but couldn’t take the ball out of the opposing team’s hands. The rest of the rules of basketball were loosely adhered to.

This blog is not about the game though. (Although you def should play it!) The students didn’t want to play the game at first. I heard the classic, “why we can’t we just play basketball?” In which my response always is that they should sign up for a league and play there. It is a beautiful reminder that this is not a sports class. (nor is it a fitness class)

Some students hated basketball and experienced trepidation going into the game. The beauty of this particular game is that I split the groups up so that the person guarding them was close to their ability level. They had as fair of a matchup as I could possibly make it. The small-sided approach guaranteed they would get the ball and that they would have numerous chances to shoot the ball unaccosted.

I love basketball because it is a game where there is a lot of success. The ball goes in the hoop a lot. This makes the students feel good. That reward and the hit of dopamine released when the ball goes in does wonders for students who don’t always experience sports success.

The kids looooved the game! Once everything was rolling on both courts I was able to give tons of feedback as I vacillated between groups.

I am always pushing for student-centered games with student voice and choice that I sometimes forget that I am still the most experienced person in my class. I have taught thousands of students and can almost forecast the successes and failures that will occur. I am not discounting what the students think and want to do; however, sometimes they just have to do things that they may not want to because at the end of the day we as educators have a duty to guide them. This means we have to make some decisions they won’t like. Like I tell my own kids when they don’t want to eat their vegetables. “You don’t have to like it you just have to do it.”

I am not advocating for a dictatorship where it’s my way or the high way. The opposite of this is true as well though. The students don’t always know what is best either. While I place little stock in degrees and certfications I do place a high value on experience. Too often we as teachers don’t give ourselves enough credit for the knowledge that we have amassed over the years.

The education trends come and go. People with two years of experience are keynoting education conferences and have written manuals on how to teach. It’s time we started trusting ourselves again. As Aishwarya Rai Bachchan stated, “The more you are blessed with experience, the fuller and the more enriched you are in your craft.”


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