Coaching NBA Like Teaching 9th Grade!
Pay attention Kuester.
by Sam Rubenstein / @samrubenstein
Hello it’s Rubenstein. Well, the last time I wrote a post, I was assigning my 9th graders a piece of writing about the latest Woj assault on LeBron’s flawed morality. Much has transpired since then. The Heat went from being a pointed and laughed at mess to a legitimate NBA juggernaut against bad teams as long as the game isn’t tight. I went from being a wide-eyed rookie teacher (really in my 2nd year counting last year’s long-term sub fill-in stretch. Like a rent-a-player mercenary like Deron Williams) to a slightly more grizzled rook, but nowhere near a veteran.
Really though, as a teacher, I am like a coach. And since my greatest contribution to SLAM other than smacking Lang around in Madden for hours unless he put in the cheat codes, is comparing NBA things to things that are not NBA, naturally I compare everything at my job to something NBA-related. I see myself as a young coach, like Monty Williams, Jay Triano, Tyrone Corbin, and all of those guys that nobody could possibly have any interest in. Sorry if that was rough, that’s OUR reality. Now let’s talk about my favorite embattled coaching situation of the moment. Oh John Kuester, you’re in quite the mess, aren’t you!
Now, before we get all sympathetic for coach Kuester, or decide to excuse the bratty whinniness of Rip Hamilton who was spoiled rotten playing for Jim Calhoun and Larry Brown, let me just inject some reality/sanity for a second. I promise I will return to the normal craziness.
Yeah, Kuester might get fired because of the cliche “inmates running the asylum.” Well, some news came down about my profession today, which had been rumored for a while, and of course this could be nothing more than a bargaining ploy, like when David Stern and the owners try to scare fans into turning on the players and accusing them of being greedy animals when in fact the team owners make way more than them. Basically, I could be fired just because of budget issues having nothing to do with how “good” or “bad” I am at my job. Trust me, I’m both good and bad at it. A lot of the bad comes from me still being a rookie, and yet I may be fired for being a rookie. It’s the quintessential catch 22. So, I can sympathize for a new NBA coach who was thrown into an impossible situation and is now feeling the brunt of it. I had a similar situation a few weeks ago on the last day before our vacation.
I have a student in one of my classes who is very smart, a respected leader amongst his peers, yet has an extremely volatile personality. On that day, I distributed a harmless piece of paper to my students called a progress report, which informed them of what their grade would be if the term ended today. He missed one big project. (Create a fake facebook page for a Greek God. I know, I’m awesome!) This affected his grade negatively, although it was a warning, and nothing official, and I specifically said they don’t even have to show their parents, this is for them. He responded like Rip Hamilton did at practice with Kuester. ALLEGEDLY!
I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I may have “lost the locker room.” The “veterans” were angry, while the rookies, meaning the quieter kids who are terrified by their more um, expressive classmates, just wished they could go about their business.
Today, we came back from break, and my Rip Hamilton seemed to be happy to see me like nothing ever happened. Time heals all wounds, I suppose. The lesson: things will be fine in Detroit. I mean, they need those old guys out of there, but other than that, not a big deal.
One more thing about my current job security situation is that they’re trying to break our union, the billionaire mayor wants to fire me and everyone I know just to make a political statement, and so on. So it gets to a point that it doesn’t really matter how good or bad I do, I could just be fired on the whim of some politician. I think that’s like being a player included in a trade to make things work out for other people. It sucks. But I hope that I can be the Chauncey Billups of this whole thing. An afterthought along for the ride, but secretly the winner. A bi-winner like Charlie Sheen! Winner!
Overall, teaching is a lot like coaching this year’s Lakers. Week to week, it’s the greatest most unstoppable machine, the next week it’s all falling apart and we’re desperate to make changes.
We had a trade deadline, much like the NBA. Students’ schedules were changed, partly because of academic performance, but also because some of them can’t co-exist, like how a team can have too many 2 guards and no big men. We made a trade to switch one girl with an explosive temper out of a class with people that could encourage those explosions, for a girl with maybe 80% of her explosive temper. What happened? The 80% temper girl fought someone less than 3 days into the term. Artestian suspensions were handed down. Lesson learned? Maybe.
The school year is a lot like the NBA season. It’s a marathon not a sprint, you can’t get too high or low, and there are stretches of the um less exciting stuff before the big game, and the ensuing let down. The big game can be some big test or project I have them preparing for, or it can be one particularly important lesson I need to teach exactly right to set the tone. For example, I brought in a shoe box labelled “DO NOT OPEN!!!” and filled it with index cards that had thigns written on them like “crime”, “jealousy”, “famine” and other terrible things. One index card was taped into the box, labelled “hope.” Yes, that was Pandora’s Box. They will hopefully remember that one.
We have All-Stars, the kids who have the most ability that get treated better than everyone else. They can make or break you, so you have to stay on their good side. Very scared of the All-Stars. If they ever knew their true power…
The strangest phenomena of all is how much my classes remind me of writing posts for SLAMonline. I initiate some point I need to get across, hope that people will be entertained and informed, and then I get buried by a never-ending stream of peoples’ opinions on whatever is on their mind at the moment, some cursing and anger, disagreements, criticisms on how horrible I am, praise for how wonderful I am, some irrelevant outbursts for attention, and then I laugh or shake my head or make a face and the commenters/students begin to police each other and fight over who is talking and who isn’t and how they all want everyone else to pay attention so they can get their education. I miss you guys!
The biggest difference between SLAMonline commenters and a 9th grade classroom is that at least your comments are forced to come in order one after the other, not all at once on top of each other.
Also, there was a fight in my room that began when I showed them the recent Kobe issue of SLAM. He has that power over people.