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What If Teacher Training Were as Rigorous as Sports Training?

The synchronized swim team came to dinner directly from the meet, and they were starved.  Their hair was still pinned up in buns shellacked with Knox gelatin and their water resistant eye makeup was still theatrical.  But make no mistake:  These girls are athletes, not mermaids.  They are full-time students and they practice, Ohio State Coach Linda LIchter-Witter told us, a minimum of 20 hours a week.  “And most of them practice a lot more than that,” she added.  The team has won 26 national collegiate championships and they didn’t do it on just looking good.

There was lasagna, but many of the young women headed directly for the desserts first, then the lasagna.  When they had eaten, their coach asked them to introduce themselves with their name, their hometown, their year in school, and their major.  They were from all over – Ohio, California, Washington, Canada, Spain, Ukraine.  They were well-spoken, confident, and charming.  They were majoring in sports medicine, biology, nutrition, languages, communications, and …. early childhood education.  Five of the twenty planned to teach small children.

Despite all the dire predictions that given current reforms, no one would want to be a teacher, here were five young women who understood hard work, dedication, teamwork, and excellence.  They understood what it takes to win.  They didn’t need education as something to “fall back on” if they failed at their first career choice.  Education was their first choice, and they could choose from literally hundreds and hundreds of majors at The Ohio State University.

My guess is that working with children would be a first choice among many female athletes at many other colleges.  And I am hoping that their academic training is as excellent as their athletic training has been.  I’m hoping that they have someone to coach them, to expect and demand excellence, to make them winners so that they know what winning feels like in the classroom.  I hope that their courses are as rigorous as swim practice and that they take as much pride in earning an “A” as they do in winning a meet.

These young women have the raw material, the drive, and the commitment to be great teachers.  Is their academic program as outstanding as their sports program?  Because like the Big Ten commercial says, there are thousands of college athletes, but only a handful of them will actually make their sport their career.  Want to reform education?  Let’s start at teacher preparation.

And speaking of women in education, here's something I've been wondering about.  Michelle Rhee is young, attractive, smart, innovative, outspoken, and has some experience in education.  Cathleen Black does not have all of these attributes.  Yet some say that Black may be the victim of gender bias. Rhee?  Not so much.  Hmmm.



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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.