What “Being There For the Kids” Really Means

We’re for the kids. We’re all for the kids. No, really: We’re all in for the kids. Seriously.

Reality check: What does that mean? Should we force them to endure and overcome on their own, with no more than moral support? Should we support them through every trial, perhaps to the detriment of teaching them self-reliance? Should we coddle them beyond recognition?

I don’t know, but I think my dad has a pretty good idea.

Dad isn’t even a teacher. He tells stories he’s heard and does not necessarily agree with, condone or believe — he’s a lot like Herodotus — but I thought one of his gems addresses this question. Though he’s years younger than at least one of you readers, he and I have been around each other enough that I generally know his stories. Think Big Fish.

His story is about a hard-nosed, old-school, cuss-you-off-the-field football coach. Over the years, my dad has told it as he remembers it, and each time, the story either adds another embellishment or loses a previous one. This story certainly has the feeling of truth.

It was possible only before special ed teachers were legally required to hold certification. This story could not happen today. In my dad’s tradition, I add my own embellishments.

Our coach is a coach, and in every sense of being coach. He teaches physical education. His mind is a pastiche of power plays on gridiron. Unlike the rest of the coaching staff, he’s also relatively new.

He had been aware that everyone on the coaching staff takes a full schedule of special education classes every five years. The school district was too poor or too unable to find full-time special ed students.

It’s his turn this year. He fought them tooth and nail. He did not want to be stuck teaching those retards. His fellow coaches weren’t about to let him get away with breaching the contract, so put the pressure on the rookie. Our coach caved in, and he taught special ed.

Despite himself, he became endeared to his students during that year. He felt every success, and became excited in helping them learn how to live and survive outside the coddling influence of their high school. They were learning something, and they had made so much progress, the coach thought.

Then the year ended, and the tired-eyed administrator confers with the next coach on the rotation to take up the responsibility of the special ed students. Our football coach, who so vigorously fought against his assignment, fought even more vigorously against being reassigned to the football team.

They’ve made so much progress. I don’t want them to lose all that.

He taught special ed as long as he taught anything.

That, my friends, is what it really means to be for the kids. Combine equal parts mentoring and tenacity, and invest in them.

Happy birthday, Dad.

  1. TeacherMom

    This is a great idea! Let us know how the kids like it. How will you reinforce what you hope they will take away from this; in other words, how will you bridge this to learning?

    I wonder how this would work for a class project, as another comment suggested. I bet the kids would love doing this, although I think it would have to be in small groups with each group responsible for 10 min or so.

    I wonder how far back you could go with this approach; is there enough digitized music and speeches to go back to the 1920’s?

  2. Ten minutes would be enough to pair up two speeches with two songs, or just about.

    There’s definitely enough music to go back to the McKinley Administration, but not really enough speeches. Teddy Roosevelt and Wilson were pretty good public speakers, and the “Cross of Gold” is pretty nifty, but there isn’t much else before Franklin Roosevelt. It’d be hard to come up with enough speeches from the ’20s and ’10s.

    I’d start at about 1928 or so, if I could find anything Hoover said, or 1932 if I couldn’t. The Great Depression is an excellent beginning for something like this. If I could find any filmreels or old radio broadcasts, they might work just as well. Filmreels would go back to the ’30s or so, and radio broadcasts, if you could find them, to the ’20s.

    I’d tell you how it played out in the classroom, except I’m not teaching U.S. history right now.

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