Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Detroit Tigers and Public Education

My Detroit Tigers are in the American League playoffs. I say "my" recognizing that I am not the owner, a stockholder, or an employee. I am fan. Technically being a fan gives me no vested rights. But that is just a technicality. My definition of "fan" is broad enough to include caring about the team as if they were mine.

So my Detroit Tigers are in the playoffs. Much to my surprise I might add. I had written them off several times over the course of this season. Just a few short weeks ago when they lost games to the Chicago White Sox I told myself that it was time to stop caring.

Only I couldn't.

The Tigers are my team. They represent Michigan. They represent the area I live in. Each night as the season wound down I would check the TV. I would alternately be thrilled and crushed. I would yell at the TV or the radio. Sometimes I was mad, other times I was deliriously happy. Finally they overtook the White Sox and captured the Central Division crown.

Now they are in the playoffs. As I write this they are up two games to one over the Oakland A's. 

I should be thrilled. 

But I worry. They lost last night. What if they lose tonight? Then they have to play an elimination game tomorrow.

This is the life of a baseball fan. After the season - whether they win or lose -  I'll understand that the journey was worth it. Right now it is an emotional journey.

How does my experience of being a baseball fan connect to the experiences I have had as a student, a parent of three boys, and, now, as the Superintendent? Most of the experience of being a fan does not relate to schools but one part of the experience relates very well. 

People care about schools.

Teachers and administrators care.

Parents care.

Students care.

Our community cares.

A fan cares about the team. A fan wants the team to do well. A fan has ideas on how to improve the team. It is similar in schools.  

People who care about our schools want our schools to do well. They have expectations and when those expectations are not met they voice their opinion. 

In my role as the Superintendent, sometimes it is hard to listen to those who care about our schools because they are pointing out things that are wrong with our schools. I can see and understand the frustration. My job is to fix what's wrong. 

Other times people tell me about the great things that go on in schools, how much a teacher helped, how a principal went out of his or her way to make a difference. I listen to those stories as well. 

Why do people care about our schools?

People care because they understand that education gives a student a chance. An education does not guarantee anything but it gives every student a chance. If schools teach our children well then they will have the skills to make good decisions, the skills to get a job, the skills to make a difference in the community. It is not a guarantee but a chance.

Baseball fans want a chance.

Parents want their schools to provide a chance, an opportunity, a possibility. 

People care about schools because they understand that schools provide hope for the present and the future. People care because they understand how important schools are to providing opportunity. 

Baseball and public schools. Both great traditions!

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