Winter is always my favorite season of the year. It brings snow (which comes with the anticipation of a snow day around every corner), many of my favorite family celebrations, and most of all, it brings the hockey season. The smell of a fresh sheet of ice, the feeling of a puck on your stick, and the smiles that come when your teammates join you to goof around before practice and then encourage you once the hard work starts. As a coach at Dana Hall School, I get to facilitate the development of relationships between my players, instilling in them a sense of loyalty and support. What I personally cherish in this process is how I also get to know students in this less formal setting, and I am always blown away by how those relationships transfer back to the classroom.
The role of teacher and coach offers such a unique opportunity to learn who students are within a more well-rounded context. So often in schools students and teachers only spend time together in one setting, the classroom. Though Dana Hall School has a vibrant community filled with informal conversations over dinner, a weekend trip, or a chance passing in the library, these encounters happen by chance and don’t offer the same ability to spend routine, daily time in a less formal setting. Over time I spend with students during sports, I get to learn about what motivates them, what they enjoy, what else they excel at, and what they’re proud of. As a coach, it is so rewarding to see them learn about themselves and grow into who they want to be. As their teacher, I can take this enhanced understanding of who a student is back into a classroom setting to help find new pathways to engage and motivate their academic learning. It has never ceased to amaze me how a breakthrough in practice on Tuesday afternoon can translate into excitement for class on Wednesday morning.
The benefits of knowing someone in multiple spheres of their lives also cuts both ways; when students have the opportunity to see a teacher engaging in a sport they love, it can be humanizing. As the myth that “teachers sleep under their desks at night” is further dispelled we become more approachable, which translates into a richer academic and athletic experience.
As the hockey season starts to wind down and the softball season approaches, I know I’ll miss the routines and relationships of the winter season, but I’m looking forward to all the new insight the spring season will bring.