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Learning like a Champ

Dyan Fast


It’s October . . .  and while it may bring up images of fall leaves, the scent of pumpkin spice and the feeling of a cozy sweater for some, it makes me think of one thing . . . BASEBALL PLAYOFFS!  The excitement of the culmination of major league baseball has arrived once again!  

Why Baseball?  Well, I come from a “baseball family.”  My father-in-law played for the Chicago Cubs back in 1968 and 1969.  He has shared his fun stories over the years but one of my favorites involves none other than Mr. October, Reggie Jackson himself.  As a rookie pitcher, my father-in-law was working off some nerves on the mound and cast a few wild balls while Reggie was in the on-deck circle.  When Reggie stepped up to the plate he had armed himself with a large towel wrapped around his arm to avoid being hit by this new, wild young pitcher.. . . Nothing like having a baseball legend mock your pitching skills.  But, this didn’t deter his focus or his delight for the game.  Years later it has become a memory that has taught him more about life than just the game of baseball.

Baseball, like learning,  has its ups and downs. It is full of opportunity and excitement; yet has its successes and failures.  In baseball,  if you have what is considered a “good” batting average of .300, this means you would still strike out 7 out of 10 times at the plate.  Professional baseball teams average about 93 errors in a season . . . and still make the playoffs!  And, even if a baseball player is drafted by a professional organization, only about 1 in 33 of those players will have the chance to play in a major league game. Yet, it is exciting!  Young kids still dream of playing in the big leagues, and those that are past their prime still plan out their fantasy leagues for the season.  


So as baseball comes to a close, and learning is just ramping up for the year, what can we learn from this game in order to reach the playoffs this year in our own classrooms?


From Little League to the Big Leagues - Keeping the Dream Alive

In our beginnings, we have hopes and dreams for the year.  How do we keep these dreams alive?  This year at our opening district meeting we had the opportunity to learn about Hope Theory.  This was tied into our current work on Trauma Informed Practices and Culturally Responsive Teaching.  One interesting fact that I learned was that the highest predictor of college success was not related to SAT or ACT scores, or college prep classes.  Rather, the highest determining factor of success was related to the students’ hopefulness. 

Hope consists of 3 things: Goals, Pathways and Agency.  As educators our role in developing this sense of hopefulness in our students is to help them identify their goals and develop multiple pathways to reach those goals and have the agency to use metacognition strategies to determine how to navigate through those pathways or make adjustments so that we can keep them moving toward that goal.


Now, put this in relationship to what we do each day in education from Kindergarten through High School.  How are we cultivating a hopeful attitude about school?  It starts with being clear about our goals and then helping students develop a vision for getting there.  A second grade teacher in my building created an opportunity for students, families and staff to identify what their hopes and dreams were and post them on a bulletin board in her classroom.  This not only opened the door to the relational capacity she wants to build with students and families, but it became a spring board for helping students get specific with their goals and how they can develop a path to get there. 

Having this mindset creates an accountability for teachers, families and students as partners in learning . . . and keeps the dream alive.  Imagine if we could capitalize on this from the early years all the way to college and career.  We have the ability to make each student’s big league dream come to life!




Errors = Opportunity


How do we view our own mistakes and “failures”, and how do we cultivate the right view of these in the efforts of our students?  Brene Brown has done a lot of work on courage, which is so necessary as we help develop the agency to continue the work of our goals.  Her research has led to the understanding that there is no courage without vulnerability.  And how do we instill vulnerability?  By allowing opportunities where failure is seen as a necessary step toward continued success.  Brown states, “There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”  

The baseball player who misses the routine fly ball in the third inning will no doubt see more fly balls throughout the game.  The trained athlete must view this error as an opportunity to make the adjustments necessary to be prepared for the next fly ball.  Secondarily, when the player misses the fly ball, you can be assured that it is expected that his or her teammate is there for backup.  When we praise efforts over answers, use errors that our students make to adjusting thinking, or develop new approaches to our own instruction to provide better understanding, we help students see errors as opportunities.  In doing so, we create an atmosphere that values vulnerability, develops trust and creativity, and cultivates courageous learners.

Some of my favorite resources for instilling the idea of seeing errors as opportunities are:


We can help our students develop big dreams and possibilities and instill the mindset to see them through!

  • How do you help your students “get in the game” and become mindful learners?  

  • How do you develop approaches to learning that develop a growth mindset for your students?

  • How do you keep the “learning” hopes and dreams alive for your students and families?

It is so much more than school alone  . . . we are building the foundation for the game of life!

  • College and Career Readiness
  • growth mindset
  • hope theory
  • partnerships in learning
  • relational capacity
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The opinions expressed by the CORElaborate Bloggers, guest bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD), Ready Washington or any employee thereof. PSESD is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Washington State Teacher Leader or Guest Bloggers.

Dyan Fast Board

Instructional Coach, K-2nd Grade, Rochester Primary School, Centralia, WA