Reminder of Growth

In my spare time I coach swimming and have for longer than I’ve been teaching.  I was a swimmer through college and I loved every minute of it.  Coaching is a way to continue to do something I enjoy and to fill some of those many hours of spare time us teachers have laying around. 🙂

Today we had our first meet, I missed yesterday because of the math conference, but wanted to see my swimmers swim today.  After the first few swims, I saw some droopy faces…as I inquired, swimmers stated they were upset they weren’t getting all best times. Ahhh…yes, they wanted to reach that mastery level, beating their previous best time with a new one.  However, they were forgetting a few important details:

*Their previous best times came from their rested Championship meet in February/March.

*They had only been in the water 3 weeks for a total of 14 practices.  We had a pipe burst and it cancelled 3 practices.

*In the fall, our first meet happens after 5 weeks of practice simply because it’s a longer season, but it allows for more preparation and practice.

What I found interesting was the swimmers were forgetting that they weren’t adequately prepared for the meet and were holding on to the same expectations they have on themselves at the end of the season.  I kept having to remind them of the above and that this wasn’t a meet for a best time (mastery), this was a meet to practice racing, putting into a race what we have been practicing and to get feedback to improve for our first long course meet in 2 more weeks.

You see, I noticed that FEEDBACK was MY ultimate desire here.  I wanted them to know this meet was about feedback so they have a focus for practice the next two weeks, yet many of them wanted to achieve that best time right off the bat without all the practice behind them.

In the future I need to prep them better for the expectations of this meet.  We talked about it and I sent an email to parents, but I think it’s too easy to be excited about the meet and to forget what the focus is.  This is no different than my math classroom…I need to make sure at the beginning of the year, that I am clear about their formative assessments and that the feedback they get is more important, which is why it won’t have a grade on it.  Connecting back to swimming, it would be like swimming a meet but not having the clock visible to see their final time, but to focus on the aspects of racing, their technique and the feedback they receive.

I look forward to working with my swimmers to focus on a growth mindset the same way that I am working with my students on it and I want them to focus on feedback and not just the time they receive.


3 thoughts on “Reminder of Growth

  1. In my function as a math blogger for a commercial site, I recently posted about the connection between math and what John Dewey called “situated learning,” and what modern educational thinker Alfie Kohn ( calls “math worth doing.” You are having the swim team look at their expectations as a probablistic outcome of the resources they could put into their practice instead of applying a high/low pass filter to the result and rejecting all likely outcomes as unacceptable. The last sentence sounds incredibly wonky, but it sure seems like your team will learn some real-life probability, just the way your students probably learn based on something they care about. I wish my math teachers knew what you and John Dewey do/did.

    Incidentally, here’s my post:

  2. I find myself comparing my students to my athletes as well. I was a competitive swimmer through college and coached for more years than I have taught and I LOVED this post. I feels nice to listen to someone have the same insights from a swimming perspective as I do myself. Once a swimmer, always a swimmer! 🙂

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