Infusing Passion Into the Prison Classroom

By Christopher Zoukis

When I was in high school, my football coach was also my world geography teacher.  Both in the classroom and on the field he would find ways to motivate us to want to do more, to be more than even we thought we could.

On the field, he’d yell, “Zook, I need a field goal” or “Zook, it’s time for a first down.”  (I was both a kicker and a running back.)  When he would be yelling, he would be making me a part of whatever was going on.  He would be encouraging me.  He would be affirming my value.  And in the classroom, while he wouldn’t yell at any of us (perhaps holler is a better word than yell), he would address us individually and collectively.  He would ensure that all of his world geography students felt a part of the classroom and the experience.  To him, the time on the field wasn’t about football and the time in the classroom wasn’t about our world geography text, it was about us: his students and players.  This interest in us as individuals fermented itself as a passion within ourselves.

Coach’s method of teaching and coaching us was effective.  It connected each of his students and players to the situation and made them feel as though they were responsible for the events which were to come.  By calling on us in the classroom, he showed that he cared and valued our opinions.  By taking the time to explain a football technique prior to its implementation, he implied the value of our skills and our worth of his time.

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