Twins triumphs and school success


by Joe Nathan • 9/26/08 • So I’m sitting here typing this column wearing my Joe Nathan #36 Minnesota Twins t-shirt, a big smile and a bigger question. The smile is for the wonderful courage and comeback that the Twins displayed this week. As you read this column, you will know whether the Twins made the playoffs. The weekend is ahead as I write this column. Having attended several Twins games this season, including their first of their 3 victories over the White Sox, I know how much joy sports can generate.

Having attended high school football, hockey and basketball games in Minnesota, I’ve seen how much passion is generated. Over the last 40 years, as a Minnesota public school teacher and administrator (as well as a high school and college athlete, and parent of 3 youngsters, all of whom participated in youth and school sports teams, I’ve seen how much good can come from sports.

There are the awkward, uncoordinated youngsters who over a season or two develop grace and confidence. Who can forget the victories that involve huge comebacks? (I still remember some from 20 years ago involving our youngsters, and more than 40 years ago in which I was a player) I’ve been moved to tears by youngsters’ courage to accept mistakes (and tough defeats) and come back for another day.

Yes, sometimes there is pain, anger, frustration and even bitterness. Things don’t always go the way you hope in sports…sounds like life, right?

This leads to the big question mentioned in the first sentence. How can we use some of the passion, enthusiasm and excitement many of us feel as a participant or spectator in sports, to help build greater student interest and passion for what happens in classrooms?

The finest teachers and coaches are masterful motivators. I’d love to know more about some of your favorites. Here are a few that I remember:
• A 7th grade social studies teacher who had us debate current issues (often pushing us to take the side that we didn’t really agree with). He helped a generation of students learn to be more open-minded, and to develop strong, logical ways of presenting their views.

• A junior high music teacher who was very compassionate about the fact that my voice was changing, and I was not always in command of the sound (definitely not always music) that came out when I tried to sing. He was one of the most enthusiastic and caring people I’ve ever encountered.

• A college history professor who knew a remarkable amount his subject, and gave amazing, humor, information-paced lectures. He constantly shared little known incidents that helped reveal the character and humanity of famous people. He convinced generations of college students that each of us really could have a positive impact.

• A religion professor who helped me through a very difficult time in my life.

They were people who made us WANT to learn, and to excel. Who were your favorite teachers – and how did they motivate you? I’d love to hear from you, and will pass on some of what you send in (