Sunday, June 13, 2010

Life as a Soccer Missionary

I've been trying really hard over the past couple of weeks to get into a rhythm of working on classwork and blogging. Considering I'm in a class that shrinks a semester's worth of work into four weeks, my work is cut out for me. What makes things worse is the fact that the World Cup is this summer, and that means that for hours at a time a significant portion of my focus is on the match at hand... even if it's between teams like Paraguay and Switzerland. The quadrennial festival of football is truly a sight to behold, and the prospect of watching three matches a day for almost two weeks straight is true delight for a football supporter like me.

However, living in a semi-rural part of the United States means it is often quite a lonely exercise. Soccer and I have been joined at the hip since an early age through both playing the game and being a spectator. My younger years were pretty much dire, but our local public broadcasting station played ancient reruns from the brilliant series Soccer Made in Germany got me well in touch with my German ancestry, so when my teammates were busy trying to pick daisies out of the midfield, I was busy trying to be south Louisiana's own Karl-Heinz Rummenigge... and usually failing miserably because I was even shorter than he was. The growth of the spectator side of the sport in the 1990s allowed me to finally follow my teams in Holland (PSV Eindhoven), Germany (Hamburger SV), and England (Arsenal) from my home over satellite television. However, like a lot of things in my life, it was merely tolerated by my parents mainly because they wanted to be nice to me and didn't (really) want me to be seen talking to myself, even if it was about the majesty of Dennis Bergkamp.

Fast forward well over a decade, and with a good-paying job and spare time, following the game now is really easy--just like spending lots of money on it. I'm currently investing in some World Cup scarves and a couple of posters to go in my classroom to accompany my Arsenal scarf so when people walk in they will know for sure which sport I follow--as if the PSV Eindhoven polos, soccer books from Europe, and German men's national team lanyard my ID hangs off of isn't any indication, that is. When my students ask what I watched this weekend, I'd pull out the English Premier League highlights online and show them the best goals of the week, much to their consternation.

On Saturday I headed over to Lafayette to watch the England-USA match at a local eatery. I was astounded to see the place packed to the gills with folks wearing kits from over 20 countries and a good 10 club sides. With nowhere else to sit, I plopped down at the bar between an Englishman and a loud-mouth American that knew nothing about the game despite claiming to have played high school soccer for four years. When the US scored off of Robert Green's horiffic error, the place exploded with cheers, including myself in a rare case of openly cheering when watching a sporting event. When it was over, I left satisfied in a good time, but wondering where all of these supporters came from, because whereas I wear my club allegiances pretty openly, I can count the number of non-rec soccer kits I've seen in the area, apart from the Mexicans and their innumerable Chivas and Club America kits. There was that one guy I saw wearing an Aston Villa shirt with Gabriel Agbonlahor on the back, but apart from that, I'm all alone.

It's weird, but in some ways I'm just one of an ever-growing number of soccer missionaries preaching the good news of the beautiful game to this nation of uncultured savages. Of course, I say that with my tongue firmly in cheek, but there is something that, despite the ever-growing status of the game in the American sports scene, makes Americans scoff and act a smidge hostile. Despite the scenes across the country like I experienced on Saturday, people frowned at the fact the England-USA match ended in a draw, much less the fact that there was celebration for a draw, and typical complaints about a lack of scoring, and a general "lack of action", and whined that they were going to have to put up with this nonsense for a month. Of course, some people have found the secret lair where I get my marching orders, and blamed this all on the liberal media, which I find most amusing considering where I stand when it comes to politics.

I don't think I'm too offencive of a missionary. I mean, compared to some of the American football shrines some of my colleagues have, my scarves and books are small time. When the New Orleans Saints were on their Super Bowl run, the mad dash to get on the bandwagon was startling, as was the garish amount of black and gold everyone wore, not to mention the kitsch people plastered on their walls, windows, and sides of their automobiles. I think best of all, I don't sit there and constantly carp about why football games on TV last over 3 hours, referees never call basic penalties in basketball on star players, not to mention the fact that cheating and our national pastime have quite the symbiotic relationship. Oops.

Regardless, I think a big frustration in my soccer-watching life is that, apart from being the only one around here that follows it like I do, is that a lot of US sports fans don't want to give me the same consideration that I give them. I'm not expecting them to quote Jonathan Wilson of the Guardian and Inverting the Pyramid fame, or comment on the game like folks on Zonal Marking, at least they could attempt to wrap their heads around facts like you might not need constant scoring to have an exciting game, sometimes it's OK to not have a winner if the result of the game isn't life or death, or even getting kicked in the shin still hurts a lot... even if you jump right back up after rolling around on the ground for a couple of minutes. Well, a man can dream, eh?

Until next time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Teaching Post-Mortem- Planning

Well, after a crazy two weeks of getting ready for the summer session of college where, after pleading with a department head, I managed to get a screw-up on the university's part fixed, enabling me to get my Alternate Certification program completed this summer as I had planned, as opposed to the worst-case scenario where I would have to spend another year to complete just two classes. Now that I am in the class, I am doing the logical thing when presented with the case of being in a class where the content is literally what I did every day for a year: blog!

As I stated in my last post, I wanted to look back at the school year like any responsive professional and reflect on what I did with the purpose of taking those lessons learned and apply them to my conceptual fram... Er sorry, got a little too eduspeak-ey there for a second. In normal language, by talking about what I did this past year, I could figure out what went wrong (and right!) and fix those problems in preparation for next year.

Simply put, this year was horrible for me planning-wise because I was only five days before school started to teach in a subject area that I'm simply not qualified to teach, much less have a clue how to teach reading to students who are up to five grades behind where they should be as readers. The day I was hired I sat at home looking at all of the material that was given to me and felt totally lost. Thankfully for me my school board created a 180-day calendar for teachers to follow, so at least I could use that to get going. The next four days I spent, not planning, but simply getting my classroom ready for the impending school year. As a result, I was flying by the seat of my pants for the first two months of the school year just trying to figure out what I was doing teaching Reading. Of course, once I figured out what I needed to do, things began to go a lot smoother, but the issue remains that I'm teaching something I haven't the foggiest as to how to do what I'm supposed to do.

I think that this is going to plague me as long as I teach this subject. I am a Social Studies/Science, and even to an extent Math teacher. I look at the subject materials in those subject and know what and how to teach without too much effort. Reading? Not a chance. Even though I had the assistance of our consultant getting me up to speed, I was still spending eight to ten hours a weekend working on lesson plans, only to spend over an hour a night looking at my lessons trying to change them since everything went wrong. By the end of the year, I was in a rhythm of lesson planning.

Looking to next year, if i can continue to plan deliberately once I got going in the school year, I'll feel a lot better about the planning aspect of the job. However, I still feel like I'm still behind the 8-ball because I don't feel as though I'm adequately prepared to teach students who, frankly, need someone who specializes in teaching struggling readers. I wish I could say that I can turn it around this next year and really become an effective reading teacher, but I know better and am tempering my expectations... and hoping I can get an assignment at my school where I have a better chance of utilizing the teaching talents that I have.

Until next time.