Monday, January 24, 2011

A Vision for Learning

As our community begins the process of defining a vision for the Delta School District and for Delta Secondary School (see Vision BWTEIM) , we have asked stakeholders to reflect on a single “great moment of learning.” This appreciative inquiry will help us focus on the conditions that created learning that was engaged, purposeful, and effective. Having the good fortune of being a student, a student-teacher, a teacher, a parent, and an administrator in Delta, I can draw from many different experiences. I've done a lot of learning here! But what most easily surfaces for me are the moments when individuals and groups of individuals have overcome significant obstacles through new learning or working through a challenge with others. If I have to choose one, I’ll go all the way back to my time as a student at Delta Secondary in the 1980s...
My most memorable learning as a student at DSS was playing basketball for Delta teacher, Brian McGill. Brian inherited the senior boys basketball team from Neil Murray, who was quite deservedly a coaching legend. Neil was a notable athlete, who held a number scoring records at UBC and was recruited to play for the famed Dallas Cowboys, even though he had never played a down of football. As impressive as he was as an athlete, Neil was equally impressive as a coach, having led one of the most outstanding teams in Pacer history, the 1979 squad led by Canadian Olympian, Alan Kristmanson, and the late Anesto Charles, to the number one ranking in the province. As a junior student, I was looking forward to having Neil as a coach but prior to my grade 11 year, he stepped down, making way for a young social studies teacher, Brian McGill, to assume the coaching duties of the senior team. Clearly, McGill was following in the footsteps of a giant.
The transition to a new coach wasn’t easy. Brian’s approach to basketball focused heavily on defense. He believed that if our team held the opposition to under 50 points a game, then we had a chance to win. So we practiced defense … a lot. He committed to teaching us to play intense, fundamental, man to man defence better than any other team on our schedule. If good defence meant denying a pass, we would deny passes all over the court. If putting pressure on the ball meant being an arms length away, we would strive to be half an arms length. Some practices we didn’t even touch a basketball (now remember, these were the days of the “Lake Show” and the high flying, run and gun offenses favored by the NBA). So not surprisingly, it took a while for some of the players to warm to the idea (me included). 
Despite some early challenges (See also Cale Birk's post on GUTS - Brian McGill = GUTS), Brian never wavered and over the course of that first season, we built a strong student-teacher relationship. He was strict but he never raised his voice in anger. He consistently challenged and pushed us to “get out of our comfort zones”. Yet, he never singled a person out, embarrassed or humiliated anyone. He modelled mental toughness and was an example of self-control at all times. And when he introduced us to the teachings of John Wooden, they would resonate because Brian had been modelling this approach and holding us accountable to the Pyramid of Success since the beginning. Like my teammates, I became a reasonable high school basketball player, and our team had some modest success, but Brian helped me develop as an athlete and a person.  I was able to apply almost all of what I learned with Brian to other sports and more importantly, to other aspects of my life. Later, when I became a teacher and coach myself, I often found myself reflecting on how much I had learned from time with Brian as a coach.
What is your most memorable moment of learning in school?

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