Friday, October 9, 2009

Teaching Attentional Control and Listening

One of the formidable challenges that our teen coaches face occurs when they gather their team for a huddle. Anybody who has ever coached knows how difficult it can be to muster the attention of 12 nine-year olds who prior to the summons were ripping around the field with their friends. The old saying holds true, 'that was like herding cats.'

Once the players are assembled, the coach must give some direction or teach something. It's that moment that we focus on as a critical teaching moment. We ask our teen coaches: "When you start teaching, what kinds of behaviors and attitude do you hope your players use in the circle?"

Invariably the teen coaches, will identify all those habits that every teachers yearns for in their students: "I hope that my players keep their eyes on me," or "I hope that they listen carefully," or "I hope they show me that they care what I'm saying."

Their insights are crucial because we are getting the teenagers to articulate and define what constitutes exemplary presence in a classroom or a huddle. The teenage coaches draw on their direct experience  and in doing so they are being asked to consider what type of student/player does a teacher/coach appreciate the most?

At this moment in the process, we strive to connect a chain of insight:

As teenage coach/teachers we appreciate and value those players/students that exercise attentional control with us. We hope our players will make eye contact, listen, ask questions, and respect our team by paying attention.

When I am not coaching, I am a high school student. My teachers at the high school have the same feelings and hopes that I do. They want me to make eye contact, listen, ask questions, and respect my classroom by paying attention.

As you can see, Project Coach strives to cultivate these habits through a model that emphasizes  understanding how others experience our behavior. Our coaches are put into a position where they must 'teach' certain qualities and virtues. Our hope is that through activities, reflective exercises, and feedback they internalize these qualities in ways that allows them to deploy them in other contexts such as school.

Here is an accompanying activity. We take a photo of our coaches during an activity that they are undergoing. The picture captures a presentation by a Smith student who will be conducting a research study on Project Coach. She is explaining the methodology. After taking this photo, I will sit down with the coaches and ask them to evaluate their presence as a student/learner/leader in this photo. As you can see, the attributes they describe as important for their players to possess are being exhibited in the classroom setting.

No comments:

Post a Comment