The Scoreboard Doesn’t Tell All

Teachers take an unconventional look at professional development

Robersonville - According to the calendar, it’s time for baseball and softball, but South Creek High School held one more basketball practice. This time it was for teachers and administrators.

“It’s not just about basketball,” Principal Wesley Floyd told a staff member before practice began. Basketball was simply an analogy used to take a deeper look at interactions between teachers and students.

Floyd opened the practice with a speech he borrowed from Dabo Swinney, Clemson University's football coach. He encouraged the team to strive for excellence by giving that little extra every day and in everything they do.

The horn sounded, and the practice began. Some in attendance were not initially excited about the potential of time on the court - a parallel to students who may struggle in a class or be dealing with distractions. Conquering this possible scenario was one of the priorities of those leading the session.

Experienced high school and middle school coaches Asim McGill, Patrick Herring, C.J. Grissett, and Wes Hughes manned stations were set up around the Cougar's gymnasium, where staff attempted to make six of ten free throws, shooting from the line, lay-ups, and passing. The coaches' main job was to demonstrate the positive aspects of coaches for those attending their station.

Aspects such as smiling, making it personal, focusing on growth using data, individual and whole group coaching, re-teaching, motivating, providing feedback, and demonstrating caring were visible at each station.

Teachers made their way through each station, where they were encouraged by their coaches to keep trying, no matter what they scored. Coaches offered tips and demonstrated ways the participants could improve their technique. Other staff members frequently jumped in to cheer on their co-workers.

Upon completion of each station, teachers recorded their totals for review. There was no winning score in this exercise. Tallies simply gave the teachers a benchmark. Using the data would allow a growth plan, just like in the classroom.

When the teacher team gathered for debriefing with their “head coach,” Principal Wesley Floyd led the discussion. The first question asked was, “what characteristics stood out about their coaches.”

“They taught us and didn’t quit,” veteran teacher Elizabeth Barber explained. “And they didn’t give work and sit behind a desk. And they encouraged us.”

Floyd’s discussion led to the demeanor of the coaches, noting their positive and encouraging nature. They discussed the varying levels of skills and how the coaches worked with the groups and individuals. The team talked about how the exercise may have gone if there were modifications to each event, much like how teachers scaffold approaches to meet the varied needs of their students and build confidence.

There were many takeaways from the practice, according to Floyd. The list included, but was not limited to:

“Great coaches have game plans that change as needed.”

“Great coaches motivate; they make their players feel that they matter,” which the group witnessed throughout the training.

“Great coaches care about their athletes.”

“Great coaches provide feedback which is timely, specific, kind and that is likely to make a difference.

“Great coaches practice procedures.”

“Great coaches adjust during the game or practice.”

“Great coaching is great teaching.”

The professional development included educational research from John Hattie and Todd Whitaker as well as coaching input from Coach Asim McGill. Coach “Mr. Floyd” reminded the staff that he would be looking for those coaching elements in their classrooms as we move forward. The practice ended with the sound of the horn and a challenge to commit to excellence. The closing remark, a call to action, also borrowed from Coach Swinney. “To be an overachiever, you have to be an over believer.” Principal Floyd said that the practice wasn’t just about basketball. He was right, it was about a whole lot more.