This Milestone Makes Me Nervous

As a father, there are specific milestones I know will happen in my son's life. We have already enjoyed and captured so many; Cooper's first steps, his first word, his first tooth, the first time he slept in a big boy bed, conquering potty training, starting pre-school and his first time on an airplane. The list could go on and on. We are very blessed to enjoy so many moments and with the technology available to us, capture each of them as they are happening. If you would have asked me a few months ago, what the next milestone would have been, I would have answered safely, we have one more year of pre-school and Kindergarten starts in the fall of 2017. I would have shared that answer a few months ago, but if you asked me today, I would have to admit, I was wrong. The next milestone is Cooper's life starts tomorrow and I may be more nervous than he is.

We have spent the last week hitting local sporting good stores, making sure he has the proper shoes and apparel and just the right kind of bat, glove and balls. It's been exciting. If you have put the clues together, you may have guessed, Tee-ball season is upon us! While I can see how parents can get carried away buying the very best for their children, I am aware of the fact that Cooper is only four years old. I think we have time to buy him the best. Preferably something he will not grow out of in a couple of months.

We spent yesterday at the park practicing. Cooper fielded some ground balls, played catch (kind of) and hit the ball off the tee. While we have done this a handful of times prior to yesterday, I was surprised how well he did. Yes, he gets frustrated easily, but who doesn't when things do not go as we expect them to.

The similarities between education and coaching are abundant and with our first practice tomorrow night, followed by our first game this Saturday there are three things I am going to do my best to remember as we embark on our season and celebrate this milestone. I need to be mindful of the same three things between now and the end of the school year.

Patience - I will need to have patience. Cooper is not going to do everything right the first time. He has never played Tee-ball before. Similar to how our students arrive in our classrooms, students have had different experiences and sometimes have not been exposed to the thinking or learning they need to be successful. It is our jobs as teachers to introduce, allow for practice, guide their development and most importantly exercise patience. It takes time to acquire a new skill. Fielding ground balls, throwing to an actual target and hitting a ball require a certain level of skill and athleticism Cooper will acquire over time. As Cooper says, "Patience means waiting and waiting is hard."

Celebrate - Cooper is going to make a great play, knocking down the ball, stopping the ball in its tracks and chasing down a ball that is just out of his reach. For each great play he makes, there will more than likely be a handful of plays that are not great. He is learning. It will be important for us to celebrate the great plays and focus on the success. No one needs to be reminded of what we do wrong. Cooper understands what it is "suppose" to feel and look like and he gets frustrated when it does not work out the way he wants it to. Do you have students in your classrooms that know what they are "supposed" to be doing, but struggle to make it happen? I can think of one or two. How often do we get stuck, focusing on what students are doing wrong instead of celebrating when they make a great play? Probably too often. I look forward to the smile that will be on Coop's face when he makes a great play and hear's his daddy cheering him on.

Listen - With Tee-ball being our first organized sport, it is important to me that Cooper enjoys the experience. If he is not enjoying it, he will let us know. As a four year old, it may not come out as clear as, "I do not like Tee-ball" so I will need to listen carefully. I will listen to Cooper share his experience with others, what he says about his teammates and what he says about how much fun he is having. Cooper has many years to play organized sports and as a four year old, the last thing he should be feeling is forced to play something he does not like. Chances are, he will love it, but I have witnessed and experienced teammates who were pressured to play on a team because their parents wanted them to. Needless to say, if they were pressured to play, they did not enjoy it and did not feel as if they could share that feeling with their parents because the parents would not listen. Listening is something that teachers can do in classrooms as well. Today more than ever, student voice is being highlighted and acted upon. Do you let students have a voice in their learning? In their classrooms? Or are we forcing students to do something they have little input/interest in?  If students have a voice in their learning, their vested interest and engagement increases. Right now, Cooper is interested in Tee-ball and tomorrow's practice is all he has been talking about for the last three days. What have I been doing the last three days...just listening.

With our first practice scheduled to begin in less than twenty-four hours, Cooper is beyond excited and I am nervous as can be. I am nervous that I will be able to exercise patience, celebrate and listen and I am nervous as to how Cooper will do. Regardless of how nervous I am, this milestone is exciting. I remember my playing days and being nervous prior to the first play, but I also remember how quickly the nerves go away the minute the ball is snapped. I am sure the minute we start practice tomorrow night. the nerves will subside, Coop will have a blast, playing and learning and I will be able to be patient, celebrate and listen.

Stay tuned!

What was your moment today?

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