From the desk of Hope…
A friend of mine recently recommended the book Quiet Strength by Coach Tony Dungy. Coach Dungy is well-known for being the first African-American football coach to lead a team to a super bowl victory (Indianapolis Colts 2007). He is also well-known for being a great teacher. Throughout his book he reveals his teaching techniques that inspires his players to be the best.
A quote from his book that keeps resonating with me is “don’t react – respond”. Coach Dungy communicates to his players that time is wasted when tantrums are thrown, tempers flare, and harsh words are spoken out of anger and frustration. He inspires his players, to instead, respond by getting ready for the next play and problem solving at the point of error. I love the part where he is debriefing with a player that has “lost it” on the field. He calmly and sincerely asks…”how did that work for you?” (Sounds like Dr. Phil!)
I am always perplexed at how difficult it is for these same simple sports techniques and strategies to be applied in classrooms.
Let’s take a scenario — Ms. J gives her students a historical fiction selection. Some students in her class immediately find this text hard to read and so they begin to react. The reactions range from abandoning the text to out right physical distress.
Let’s apply some wisdom from Coach Dungy…..
A nice way for Ms. J to frame this text would be to start with the quote “don’t react – respond” followed by a meaningful conversation outlining and giving authentic examples of how reactions will take you away from productivity/meaning with anything you are trying to accomplish. She could then model some clear effective responses that will foster reading engagement. For example, using an inner voice to ask questions as you read a dense text will help you stay focused and engaged with meaning. Taking a moment to ask yourself questions such as: What am I reading about? What do I know about this subject already? What is the author trying to say in this part? I am confused. How can I help myself? will be much more productive than reacting with frustration and anxiety.
I wonder if Coach Dungy knows that he is inspiring reading teachers with his message in Quiet Strength? “Don’t react – respond” is a nifty reading mini lesson to have on hand when the time is right. If you stop and think about it, though, this is a lesson that can be used in all aspects of life.