Monday, November 17, 2014

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” ― Phil Collins

I retired from teaching in June of 2011 when my husband's cancer worsened and I needed to care for him.  Scott died in May of 2012, leaving a huge void in my life.  He was my best friend and my husband, as well as my volunteer assistant golf coach.  Because I wanted some sort of normalcy in my life, and because my athletic director asked me to stay on as Varsity Head Boys' Golf Coach, I stayed.  I loved coaching as much as I loved teaching, sometimes even more, as  I did not have to correct any essays!  But this year, I decided to retire from coaching after 33 years.

Today's blog is about reflections.  I have talked with former colleagues a great deal about my decision to leave.  The time just seemed to be right.  Many of those I spoke with have also retired from their avocations:  coaching, sponsoring a club, or directing.  They all had decided the time was right to leave, just as I did, but upon leaving, they felt so much more.  They were humbled by the opportunity to work with students and to help to shape their lives, and they were rewarded with relationships with former students who have turned into friends and colleagues. You see, when you work with students in a capacity outside the regular classroom setting, you are permitted to see students in a whole new light. 

If you are a classroom teacher reading this blog, I urge you to get involved with a school activity, sport, or club.  My former coach/sponsor/director colleagues would all agree. The relationships you will form with students during extra-curricular activities are something that you just can't get in the classroom. When I think of the relationships formed on the golf teams all those years and all the lessons everyone learned from working together, from teamwork and from encouraging and supporting each other, I know that those are life lessons that those students will carry forever.  For me as a coach, it was not so much about winning; rather, it was about the player doing the best he could do with what he had,  practicing good manners and etiquette, supporting team members by being a team player, and presenting himself in a positive manner to others.  Many former players have told me that they never forgot those lessons.

All the years I directed the North Allegheny Spring Musical and the North Allegheny Intermediate Talent Show, sponsored various clubs and worked with Student Council, it was also a great experience to work with the students, both one-on-one and as a group.  Each person involved discovered that he/she was an important part of something that was much bigger than any single individual. When a teacher works with students outside of the classroom, I have found that a new respect emerges for the others involved, as students learn to work together and to grow and accept leadership roles within a club or group.  Students learn about the amount of time and organization it takes to make activities and shows and club meetings run smoothly, as well as the importance of being responsible and reliable.  Of course, you, as the teacher or sponsor, must model this behavior, and the students should appreciate your time and efforts. I strongly recommend getting involved!  You will enjoy your classroom teaching even more, when you know the students outside the classroom and inside.  I know that as a classroom teacher and as a coach and director and sponsor,  I learned far more from my students than they ever learned from me.  It was a great ride.  

Do yourself a favor.  Become re-energized by working with students outside the classroom. You will love it, and you will learn so much.  

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Rittman Publishing, LLC

Visit for more teaching ideas in Dede's new book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER.  

Dede retired from 33 years of coaching golf.  Here are the links to two complimentary articles about Dede, as a coach and a teacher. 

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