Thursday, February 4, 2010

Launching Season II & Inspiration

Today is the launch of our spring season. It's always thrilling to begin. Teaching and sports share the quality and promise of a fresh start. The anticipation of the launch. The sense that you can adapt, change, modify, and make what you are doing better.

In that spirit, I was struck by an article that came across my desk today about the Miami teacher of the year. In her acceptance speech, she quoted a poem, ``To teach is to inspire those who thought they could never be inspired,'' the poem read. As the language arts chair at Palmetto, O'Hara has students illustrate quotes from poets, make book marks based on their favorite books and fashion T-shirts featuring propaganda quotes from novels. She has been teaching for 11 years.

Her comments set me thinking about the role of inspiration in Project Coach. Inspiration is one of the elusive sensations. The dictionary describes it as "stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity or an agency such as a person or work of art, that moves the intellect or emotions or prompts actions or invention."  It's about stirring the spirit or mobilizing the imagination. At PC we believe that sports can be that trigger. Sports is chock full of opportunities to feel that buzz. We also believe that the activity of coaching provides an emotional charge to teenagers. They are in charge. They are responsible. In this sense Project Coach seeks to be that "agency" that moves the intellect and emotions.

What kinds of settings inspire? Ms. O'Hara in Miami inspires by providing opportunity for students to find and express their voice. I wonder how Ms. O'Hara's students do on their exams and tests? Would she be as celebrated or is there something happening in her classroom that eludes the needle measuring standard academic performance? In other words, can you measure inspiration and does it count? In a climate where 'great teaching' and 'effective youth programs' are being evaluated by 'value-added' systems of accountability, which gauge the effectiveness of schools and teachers by measuring the gains that their students make on standardized tests over the course of a school year, what is lost?

We're launching a program and we'll be tracking grades and college readiness and other metrics. But I also know that our Project Staff shows up each day aspiring to be inspirational and to be that "agency" that, as the dictionary says, "moves the intellect and emotions."

1 comment:

  1. It is so true, and we've talked about it in class, that it is hard to balance inspirational teaching with getting "good" test scores. There must be a way to strike that balance, though. Have there been any reforms or specific instinces where this balance has been truly achieved? Is it even possible?
    -Molly R