Yesterday, I had the staff meeting in the gymnasium. The teachers were bewildered as they walked in the hot gym, wearing their business attire: dresses, high heels, suits, dress shoes, and all. The teachers were divided into four teams, and I told them each person had to attempt to make a free throw before they could leave the meeting.
Many were startled because they had never even touched a basketball. Others were never taught how to make a free throw, and they did not know the proper mechanics to even begin the attempt. After a few minutes of frustration and embarrassment, and only 5 out of 80 successful attempts, I told the staff to assemble in the air-conditioned auditorium for the conclusion of the meeting.
The first question I asked the teachers was how did they feel when it was their turn to attempt the free throw? Many answered: afraid, mortified, unprepared, lost, and confused. Some stated they did not want to try, wanted to try again after several missed attempts, and felt overwhelmed by the monumental task. At this time, I reminded the teachers that this is exactly how a child feels in their classroom when they are introduced to an unfamiliar standard, given a task they do not have the prerequisite skills to achieve, or asked to read aloud in class. At this point, you could hear a pin drop. I reminded teachers that their lessons should be designed to reach all level of learners. I asked them to remember the type of players they had on their teams as they plan their lessons.
According to the teachers, there were three types of players on every team:
1) Teachers who didn’t know how to shoot at all. We have to provided more intense remediation for these players (show them the basics and progress with a great deal of patience and compassion)
2) Teachers who knew how to shoot, but the distance was too far (we have to meet these players where they are and provide additional practice to move them to the next level)
3) Players who already knew how to shoot and were pretty efficient, but simply needed more shots to be successful (these are the players with the background knowledge, understanding of concepts, and skills to achieve the task). It is tempting to let the more efficient players stand by while we help the ones who need more help, but they too need to be pushed to reach the next level.
I reminded the teachers to remember that all of our students are not born in that third tier. They will walk into their classrooms at different levels, and they must be ready to meet the needs of them all. Additionally, I reminded them to remember their experience when it was their time to take the shot. You see for our kids their education is their only SHOT; without it they have no SHOT at all.
To all educators, please remember the SHOT!
This post originally appeared Principal Matters!, a publication of the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals. Reprinted by permission of Dr. Jackson.