Classroom lessons learned from SEC media days

Published 2:27 pm Tuesday, August 2, 2011

By JASON MAYFIELD / Guest Columnist

Some instructors learn to be better teachers through professional development at the county offices in Alabaster. Others travel to exotic locales such as Pelham for a state-run program.

Me? I went to Hoover and covered SEC Football Media Days.

Besides learning never to wear an “I Hate Auburn” shirt if Nick Saban comes to my school (thanks, Eric Blackerby of Columbiana), I additionally found the days insightful for what I could use in my classroom. You might think that football media days involve coaches and players answering questions from the media about football. I probably thought so as well until I ran copies for the SEC of all 12 coaches’ transcripts of the print media interviews (at least 22,000 pages). Unless you’d like to go back online and listen to all eight hours of interviewing and judge for yourself, you can take my word that the coaches seemed to answer everything but football questions.

Forget the coming season. In the questioner’s mind, the issues of recruiting services, coaches-in-waiting, freshmen GPAs, high school GPAs, NCAA investigation time limits, who exactly “owns” Mississippi and the night life in Nashville and Starkville were of the greatest importance.

The off-topic issues got me thinking: What things are “distracting” from the main issues in my field?

Middle schools don’t get the money or the publicity for media days (we get noticed when things go wrong), but if such a thing existed, I imagine the principals would face questions about budget cuts, middle schools combining literature and English into one class this year, and the widespread cheating on standardized tests in Atlanta’s public schools.

As for my questions, I’m filled with concerns about the new block scheduling my school has adopted, which means I will now combine what used to be two classes into one class with just 30 minutes of extra time. I grow anxious thinking about cramming 31 gifted kids into a 1950s classroom. I wonder whether I am preparing my students for their adult work when we primarily use paper in a digital world. It’s in those worries, though, that I remember that all of my worries are secondary to the kids who will soon arrive at my classroom door. I know if I put my students first, and not my questions, then we’ll have an outstanding year.

Jason Mayfield is a gifted instructor at Columbiana Middle School.