Monday, May 18, 2015

Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots - but you have to play the ball where it lies. - Bobby Jones

On Saturday, I played in The First Tee event at Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley, PA, which is the golf club where I belong. It is a yearly event in which students who attend programs with The First Tee of Pittsburgh are invited as guests to play at our course. Foursomes were comprised of two club members and two first tee kids. I had the opportunity to play with a bright young lady who represented The First Tee in a very positive light, with her good manners and her interest in the game. It was evident that all of the kids were a little nervous to play at such a "great country club", as they called it, but once the rounds began, the caring adults in the group made the kids feel safe, important, respected, and valued.

Do you know about The First Tee?   10.5 million students have participated in The First Tee since its inception in 1997. 19,000 adults work as volunteers with the program. Besides teaching the fundamentals of the golf swing, kids learn real life lessons like how to: manage emotions, communicate with others, set goals, and resolve conflicts.  They also have a strict code of conduct that includes showing respect for oneself, others, and one's surrounding.  Additionally, students of The First Tee learn nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment.  The First Tee is really a program to teach character and life skills, and to help students to be successful in both school and life. Adult mentors and coaches help students with their struggles on and off the golf course, enabling the students to grow and mature into responsible adults.  

If you are a teacher, all of the information I have listed sounds a lot like what we do in our roles as teachers in school, doesn't it? Every teacher in every school is a mentor and a coach, helping students to set and reach goals, manage emotions, communicate with others, and to gain confidence. Teachers have daily opportunities through classroom experiences, extracurricular experiences, and sports programs to teach all of these same lessons, as well as core values, to students.  I think that sometimes with testing and scores and covering material, teachers lose sight of how important the job of mentoring really is. You, the teacher,  must make your students feel safe, important, respected, and valued to bring out the best in them, just like The First Tee. 

I strongly recommend The First Tee to all young people, and I urge you, as teacher mentors, to recommend The First Tee to your students.  When it comes right down to it, golf is really a lot like life.  The way a person conducts himself on the golf course tells so much about that person: his temperament, whether or not he cheats, how he handles adversity, and how he gets along with others.  Those same standards apply in the classroom and on the playing field. Help your students to be the best they can be - by being the best teacher that you can be. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions

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