Play Ball!

With Major League Baseball’s opening day looming, I unearthed some of my baseball-related blog posts from the past several years. Some of them have themes other than baseball, including forgiveness, redemption, racism, playing hooky, and why I was the best boss ever.

Busch Leaguer
A story of baseball, beer, and brand loyalty (through coercion). 

Who Blamed Roger Maris?
Who among us hasn’t blamed  a two-time Most Valuable Player for our second-annual hernia. Decades later I was able to forgive Maris and blame Bob Uecker

Woke Barber
Baseball broadcasting legend, from the Deep South, describes his awakening that followed his  learning that Dodgers planned to sign a Black Player.

Royal
Jackie Robinson  and Jim Crow in the Deep South.

“That Stain That is On Our Soul”
Celery City makes amends with Jackie Robinson.

I don’t care if I never get back
Playing hooky on my first day on the job.

Performance Review
This is what work meetings looked like before Zoom. 

Rhodes Scholar
A warning about  recency bias. And yes, Tuffy Rhodes was the greatest player ever.

Bo Knows Content Marketing
Well, this one’s about Bo Jackson and Content Marketing.

Talkin’ Baseball
Willie, Mickey, the Duke and questions that make parents squirm.

Photo of Oberon Beer bottle and bag of Peanuts

Oberon and Tigers Peanuts Season

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STREAM Learning

Joy Loss

It seems that everybody  else has pushed out their  opinion about schools, learning loss, and the (post-pandemic) way forward.

Thus, I’ll provide mine: the best thing that governments, schools, parents, communities…can do for children is to quit fixating  about kids “falling behind” in reading, writing….geometry, etc. 

Instead, we should obsess about how we can help them recapture lost joy and recover bits of their stolen youth. 

Academic learning loss is a real (though often overblown) thing, but it is subordinate to joy loss.

Yes, remediation needs to part of schools’ planning. Though  much of the  buzz is about  mandatory summer school and longer school days, that I think will prove to be counter-productive. 

With all that students have been through in the past year, should we really be focused on  multiplication tables, vocabulary words, or whether they can explain the role of Adenosine Triphosphate?

In order to better serve children, now and in the future,  I think, that,  to paraphrase Chief Brody in Jaws,  we’re going need a bigger acronym. 

STEM to STEAM

The term STEM, representing education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics  has been around for quite some time. 

Ten, or so years ago, I first noticed extension of the STEM education acronym, to STEAM, to include emphasis on education in the arts (I’m all for that).  Though many proponents of STEM, or STEAM refer to “education” or “teaching” rather than “learning.” 

About the same time, my son was in  kindergarten, and I was surprised by  how few recreational  opportunities there where for the students. This was during the early years of the No Child Left Behind threats and it seemed that even at age 5,  kids were being prepped for standardized tests. 

That same year, I read several articles about the importance of recess, and that it should be considered as part of the part of the curriculum, and an opportunity to learn rather than a brief respite from the curriculum. 

Thus, almost as soon as I started reading about STEAM, I began using the term STREAM. 

Admittedly, I don’t know that what the rules are for extending an acronym that has already been extended. Do I need to get approval from an international standards organization?

STREAMing  Out of the Gate

I think that with all students have gone through in the past year, it’s even more important to add recreation to schools’ curricula. We (parents, teachers, elected leaders, taxpayers)  need to adjust our focus to STREAM education, where recreation is an integral part of the curriculum. 

While I have many (many) thoughts on this topic, I’ll limit myself to a few things here, focusing on things that can be applied universally.  

First, I think that every school that reduced, or eliminated recess, due to the threat  of No Child Left Behind-type punishments, should restore recess to pre-NCLB levels. 

The next step:  make recess periods longer and/or more frequent.

If your (or your community’s) high school or middle school never had recess, fix that. My high school didn’t have recess per se (because, you know that’s for kids, right?), but had a 1-hour lunch period.

There was more than enough time to eat, play frisbee, or chatter in the hallways.  When I compare my  experience  to my 11th grade son’s 20-minute lunch break, it seems like I’m reminiscing about “the good old days.” In that respect, they truly were better.

We need to rethink gym class (again).  Does everybody in the class NEED to be participating  in the same activity, every single class period, to achieve physical education goals?  

Really?

In real life, not everybody is going to enjoy team sports as much as the gym teacher does.  People enjoy coerced team sports even less.

If some of the students want to walk the track and listen to music, and giggle away the class period, or if a student wants to participate in something like the 100-pushup challenge, or train for a road race, let them. 

Cross-Pollination

Students will find a way to learn. We should allow for autonomy so that students can find ways to incorporate recreation into their other subjects, and vice-versa.  

Some examples  from personal experience:

In grade school, I  VOLUNTARILY learned decimals, percentages, etc. earlier than most of  my classmates for one reason:  because I wanted to calculate baseball statistics.

I knew I was learning math then, though I didn’t  realize that I learned a lot about physics  playing Little League.  The outfield was quite a  lab to learn about trajectory, spin, and velocity. In retrospect,  it would have great thing to have some guided instruction in science to go with my practical experience. 

One possible option is a semi-structured course in “Recreational Learning.”  Or even better: an opportunity to incorporate recreation into learning across the entire curriculum. 

The Cost

Admittedly, there would be  costs associated with transition to a STREAM framework.  More, longer, recess, more-frequent gym class, etc.. would result in  a reduction of time  allocated to other areas.

It’s a good time to discuss whether some of the sacred cows that persist in K-12 education are really all that necessary. An example is algebra. 

When my son was in 7th grade, we sat in the waiting room of the doctor’s office while he griped about the uselessness of the subject. I suggested, that he ask the doctor about how she used algebra in her work.

Our doctor and a medical resident glanced at each other with puzzled looks. His doctor replied, “Uh, I can’t think of any examples where I use algebra, can you?” She turned to the resident who had her palms up in the air to signify “I got nothing.”

The fact is they do use algebra, or they use software that uses algebra for things like dosage calculations. There are probably several other examples that I don’t know of. 

Many  people use algebra more than they realize. You likely used algebra when you planted seven bushes in your front yard’s plant bed to ensure they were spaced equally apart. You just didn’t call it algebra.

Even if algebra has some practical applications for most people, does that warrant  having students attend 540 days of lectures for (pre-algebra, Algebra I and Algebra II)?

Probably not. 

There are a few examples of subjects, topics that are taught way past the point of diminishing returns, that come to my  mind. You probably have a few of your own.

Regardless of whether, or not there is a consensus over which subjects on which we may be spending too much time, I think we can agree that we haven’t spend enough time on restoring joy.

Let’s start there.

 

 

 

 

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The Magic Circle Meeting: The Path Toward Funnification

There is no shortage of  blog posts, articles, (and other collections of vowels and consonants) that attempt to tie a current event (celebrity death, or a movie release….) to some sort of business problem as if this random event can solve the problem.

The headline is usually along the lines of this format:

What Star Wars (Yogi Berra, Leonard Nimoy…) Can Teach Us About Commodities Trading (Integrated Marketing, Employee Retention, Student Engagement…)

There are so many articles of this type, with their faint whiff of click bait, that I hesitated to even think about that format.  Yet this morning, I was pondering alternative meeting formats when I read of the death of Meadowlark Lemon, who for a generation (and then some)  was the face of the Harlem Globetrotters.

I am not going to pretend that my feelings  on the death of a basketball/comedic icon somehow has significant  relevance in the solution of your organization’s challenges.

However, I think we  all agree these two universal truths: everybody likes the Globetrotters, nobody like meetings.   This begs the question:, wouldn’t employee  meetings be more fun if they began with a Magic Circle?

Don’t forget  golden-throated announcer with introductions:  “And now……your Chief Executive Officer…..”  Even better  if  your C-level executives had nicknames like “Slingshot” “Spider” and “Buckets.”

And of course, somebody whistling “Sweet Georgia Brown” in the background is a welcome bonus.

In the past few years, there has been a mad-dash to gamify everything. Though these attempts rarely seem fun. How about for 2016, we strive for funnification?  It’s what Meadowlark would want.

Happy New Year and may all your hook shots in 2016 be nothing but net.

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Talkin’ Baseball

I first heard Terry Cashman’s song Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey & The Duke) in a baseball documentary that I saw in the 1980s.

The title refers to Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider who played centerfield with the Giants, Yankees and Dodgers, respectively. They all played in New York at the same time, at least until the Giants and Dodgers left for California.

The song is a tribute to baseball, and “good old days” in 1950s and  the 1980s. It references many baseball starts and other pop culture. I was particularly intrigued that the song had a rhyme for line: “Kluszewski….Campanella.

I don’t think I’d heard it more a few times in the years that followed but started singing it to my son when he was a baby. I didn’t know many of the lyrics, so I did a lot of humming..

When my son was older we used to watch videos that were made for the song, and I did my best to sign along.

In the early part of the song it characterizes the 1950 with these lyrics:

“Rock and Roll Was Being Born
Marijuana We Did Scorn ”

I didn’t really need him blabbing “My dad makes me listen to a marijuana song,” at pre-school, so, I used do a “La-la-la” over that line.

I realized that we were nearing a time that he was aware enough of the world  that he would eventually hear the lyrics in the  video.  That happened sooner than I expected.

When he was nearing three, he sang the lyrics as this way:

“Rock and Roll Was Being Born
Nobody would eat his corn. ”

Yes!

That deferred his innocence, or mine, since it’s one of those conversation topics that makes a parent squirm. I was relieved that I wouldn’t need to have a slightly uncomfortable talk with him, at least for a little while.

A couple of years later he picked up the word in a radio broadcast while we were en route to school. He asked me, “Dad what is marijuana?”

I sighed.  I had vowed that when the time came I would be honest with him when he asked questions like this.

I thought to myself “Remember to be honest!”

“Marijuana was one of the co-founders of Apple Computer,” I said.

With that he recited  a line he’d once heard in a documentary, where it described Steve Jobs’ attempt to lure Pepsi CEO, John Scully to Apple.

From the back seat, the little voice started yelling:: “Do you want to sell sugar water all of for the rest of your life,  or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

Crisis averted.

And I was honest…kind of honest.

 

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