Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 17-11-2014

As I take a few moments this “Teacher Appreciation Week” 2014 I am reflecting on the impact of my teachers.  I am thinking about what they perceive as their legacy to their profession and the children that have ventured through their doors.  What impact have they had?  As I thought about this more I thought about my own career.  One of the realizations I have come to understand more as I have accumulated gray hair is that I am wiser.  I am able to reflect upon issues now that were outside of my view when I was young.  I realize that I do see the world and education differently than I did when I was 22 years old.  “If I knew then… ”

Edutopia and SoulPancake made this video about this very topic that I wish to share with you.  I give them credit for crafting this idea and putting these teachers thoughts into a thoughtful and inspirational story.  Please watch this..

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Letter to Self —————————————–
Welcome to your first day of teaching.  You are full of spirit and ready to tackle the world and that is wonderful, hold onto that enthusiasm.  There will be trials that erode it. Hold onto it.  As you do, realize that the relationships you will be making with your students may be some of the most important relationships in your students lives.  You won’t see it now but some of your students will become leaders, some will excel in politics and business, but some will also fail.  Some of your students will end up in jail.  Some will not make it to their 25th birthday.  Give time to each and every student and use that boundless energy to truly connect with your students.  It may be a life changing relationship for them and you.
Young self, also realize that you don’t know it all.  As much as you want to try the latest and greatest ways to teach never lose focus on the fundamentals.  You will learn later that without the fundamentals advancing ones skills is nearly impossible.  Just as you do on the basketball court, focus on the fundamentals first.
Lastly, know that this career is the right one.  You will have times that try your patience.  The nights after getting beat down by athletes parents or others will fade.  You will make a difference and your work in education will be valued.

Your Older Self

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 08-11-2014

This weekend is a big weekend for ND. The deer hunting opener is always a busy weekend in every town. However, it is also a BIG day for the last 16 communities that are still alive in the football playoffs.

I want to just take a minute this morning to wish each of them the best of luck on this special day. I also want to tip my hat to each of the crews working this weekend. Enjoy the experience and I wish you the best of luck. This is a very special day!

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 05-11-2014

As a coach we often stress the importance of practice.  “Practice makes perfect”, some will say.  I may contend that “Perfect practice makes perfect” as poor practice will only result in poor results.  An athlete can’t just flip the ball at the basket for hundreds of hours and just turn into a pure shooter.  To be a highly effective shooter from all parts of the court an athlete must concentrate on good form, vision, extension, hand placement, follow through, and balance.  Each of these must be done perfectly, or near perfectly, to ingrain that skill in the athletes body and mind.  Would you not agree?  This takes thousands of hours.

I do believe many adults do agree with the above characterization and let me tell you why.  I rarely see a parent complain about sport practice.  In fact most will go out of their way to ask about additional camps, out of season drills, weight lifting programs, and every means possible to get their child to perform better on the court, field, or mat.  They will make opportunities for their children to practice by buying them equipment and taking them out back to toss the ball around.  Many times this is in addition to the time the child has already spent at the practice at the club or school.  Practicing a sport is important and I would highly encourage it.  I know if you would ask any of my old athletes about my views they would tell you that Coach F always told us we have to practice shots more than just at the “official” practice at school.

But, let me turn the tables on something that is equally deserving of practice.  It is our children’s academic studies.  It does take time to become a good reader, speller, or mathematician.  It take practice!  There are hundreds of skills necessary to become a very good basketball player from shooting to playing defense.  But, there a hundreds of thousands of skills necessary to be a young person that is poised to be successful at work, college, or the military when they graduate from high school.  Each of these skills needs practice, they need to do the work, and sometimes that work needs to be done at home.  HOMEWORK – Yes I am really speaking about homework today.  Why is homework called work?  Work has such a negative connotation.  Homework should be called “Learning Practice”.

Let me preface my statements by stating a few fundamental beliefs I have about “Learning Practice”:
– All practice should be relevant & meaningful.
– All practice should be  designed to meet the needs of the individual athlete or learner.
– All practice should have a learning outcome in mind.  It is not just busy work.
– Practice can be tiresome at times.  Practice is not always fun.  That does not matter if it is shooting layups or doing math facts.
– Practice is not fair.  Not everyone will need the same amount or will it take the same amount of time or energy.
– Practice is necessary outside of the gym or classroom to become great.

I realize that family time is precious.  I have personally spent more time than I care to at the dining room table with my own children.  But, it was valuable time.  Their education is one of the most important gifts I can give to them.  Working with your child on homework is family time.  I know we all want more family time but, I do feel that some often just want more quiet TV time.  Refocus your children on the importance of practice.  I know some will work to push their children to the court to practice but then speak poorly about academic practice.  Which is more important?

Many years ago I had the privilege of  working at a school in Haiti for two weeks.  In Haiti only the students whose families can pay for tuition can attend school, so right way many are excluded.  But, I will never forget what I saw there.  Education was a treasured commodity.  Students worked during the day diligently on their studies in classrooms with 20-30-0r 40 students to one teacher.  They did not have fancy books or supplies.  They were attentive and eager to learn.  And, they had homework.  When speaking to the Principal at the school he indicated that students worked hard during and outside of school because they and their families knew education was their ticket out of poverty.  Have we lost that focus?  They knew that education was a valuable commodity that took sacrifice not only to afford the tuition, but in completing the course.

Lets begin to refocus our views of HOMEWORK within the same lens as we would PRACTICE for a sport.