I love fantasy football. I should also mention that I know nothing about football. In the ultimate showing of inconsistent standards, my mom never let me play on the grounds that it was “too dangerous” only to let us play ice hockey for our entire lives and allow my younger brother to throw on the football pads only two years later. Whether it was my pole-like, pre-pubescent body structure or low pain threshold, I will never know. However, inconsistent standards are for another post. I’m posting about relational teaching and how relationships make all the difference in teaching boys.
At this point I’ll understand if you all are are wondering what on Earth fantasy football has to do with relational teaching— in a science classroom no less. Short answer for me: everything. Short answer for you: probably nothing. Fantasy football helps me to create a sort of starting point to reach the boys. Monday morning is Kryptonite to high school students— and even teachers sometimes. I could have planned the greatest lesson of all time, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is Monday morning and their minds are still desperately holding on to the weekend. In recognition of this, I opt to start my Mondays with discussions of my fantasy team which then leads into students discussing how their teams fared.
Not only can I start to build shared interests between myself and the boys, but it also provides an opportunity for the boys to become the experts for a minute. As I mentioned earlier, I do not know much about the finer aspects of football. I can recognize trends in statistics and understand match-ups but I lack the knowledge of the game that a player would have. This establishes an opportunity for the boys to teach me something. In that moment they become the expert and the teacher-student relationship flips roles. Establishing opportunities to admit vulnerability helps to make the student-teacher relationship less of a one-way street.
Some may view those first few minutes as a waste of time, but I view it as five minutes spent making me more human. In those few minutes I’m able to establish common ground between me and my boys; I move beyond just being their teacher and become a person to them. Too often the teacher-student relationship sets the teacher as above the student in just about every way imaginable. Boys do not want to learn from a place of inferiority. The boys are more than willing to respect authority but I have found that they respond better when they see that I have a respect for them as individuals.
In my time so far at St. Christopher’s I have found that sharing your interests and embracing your flaws are keys to developing meaningful relationships with boys. You do not need to have an irrational obsession with fantasy football to do it. It does not even need to be something they are familiar with. All you need is an interest that you are willing to share with the boys. For instance, Virginia is not exactly a booming ice hockey epicenter, but the boys will still frequently ask me how my Boston Bruins are doing just to make small talk. Oddly enough, some of them even remember the anthem singer’s name— Rene Rancourt— from a time where they watched a playoff game with me before Evening Study Hall. Boys can tell when you are passionate about something and will appreciate the time you take to share that passion with them; it may even encourage them to share their passions with you. Maybe then you can even teach each other a thing or two.