Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Detroit Tigers stir passion. Does School?

My Detroit Tigers are killing me!

But before we get into that, let's start on a positive note.

The Tigers made the post-season. They won their first-round divisional match-up. They have had three pitchers start a game and not give up a hit for at least five innings. They are playing for the American League championship and a chance to go to the World Series.

But still they are killing me!

I was fortunate to be able to attend the game on October 15. The Tigers lost 1-0. In the 8th inning the Tigers had runners on first and third with one out. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder were coming to the plate. Surely one of these men would drive in a run to tie the game. They did not.

The Detroit Tigers are killing me!

On October 13th the Tigers led 5-1 when I gave up and went to bed. It was late. I get up early. Surely a 5-1 lead in the 8th inning is safe. It was not.

The Detroit Tigers are killing me!

On October 12th the Tigers starting pitcher gave up no hits for seven innings but walked six batters. Boston's first hit came in the 9th inning. Surely this was one of those "easy" games, probably a runaway victory. It was not. Detroit won 1-0! The game lasted took almost four hours to play.

The Detroit Tigers are killing me!

But, truth be told, I am happy about it. The Detroit Tigers are my team. I root for them. I watch them on TV. I attend their games (when I can). The Tigers make me care.

During that ill-fated 8th inning on October 15, Austin Jackson stood on third base and Torii Hunter stood on first base. Miguel Cabrera strode to the plate and the crowd rose to their feet waving their towels hoping for, if not a miracle, at least a base hit. The crowd was electric!

The enthusiasm, the passion, the collective will of the crowd was fun and energizing.

On my ride home from the game, I asked myself, "What is the corresponding school experience? What stirs our passion? What generates this collective enthusiasm in our schools?"

It is easy to say nothing. There is nothing about education that stirs our passion like - in this case - playoff baseball.

But is that true?

It is true that schools do not have edge-of-the-seat, white knuckle, extreme joy, crushing disappointment experiences like play-off baseball.

But I have seen passion in schools.

Today I saw it in Ms. Zimmerman's kindergarten classroom as she engaged her students around the daily calendar. Students laughed and smiled, they sang and cheered.

Yesterday I saw it in the orchestra class at Novi Middle School. Ms. Rais was introducing a piece of music from the Harry Potter movies that she wanted her students to play. Students were reading along with the music as Ms. Rais played a recording of the song. At the end of the song a student blurted out, "That was awesome!"

I have seen passion in art class, in English, in physics.

In physics? Yes! In Mir. Didio's class at Novi High School students were running experiments on acceleration and velocity, I think, and there was genuine interest and passion about the results.

Schools may not have the white-hot, edge-of-your-seat passion that playoff baseball does. (The events that get recorded where people are screaming at school board meetings don't really count either. Those moments are not really about positive energy and, at times, have little to do with actual teaching and learning.)

But schools do generate passion. I've seen students genuinely enthused and excited about what they were learning. They had to talk about it. They had to find out more. They blocked out distractions to focus on learning.

My Detroit Tigers play tonight and I will be wrapped up in their game. But tomorrow I know that in my school district there are teachers that will inspire students to engage in learning in powerful and passionate ways. I believe that school stirs passion. I have seen it, felt it, and enjoyed it.

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