A patchwork and “raw” post. It has been one of those weeks. Today, held in my arms for the first time, my beautiful niece’s son – Riley. Couldn’t have been happier. Tomorrow, heading to my coach’s funeral. He died tragically this past weekend. Life shines and life sucks.
Mr. Z was an amazing coach. I wouldn’t be who I am today without his guidance and motivation – he’s a part of me and in a strange way, lives on. He was a great father whose sons followed in his and his wife’s footsteps as teachers. He was tough as nails and pushed us underachievers – we all appreciated that about him, at the end of the day. He never gave up on us, like a great teacher, like a great coach – he believed in his athletes, great or not so great. Every one.
Belief. That’s what makes a great teacher and coach. Research is unequivocal on this point – students who have a teacher who believes they are intelligent, gifted, talented, great, outstanding – will undoubtably do better and achieve more. A student isn’t born, they are made – made by the power of a teacher that believes and cares. It almost makes one think there is some invisible spirit and force which emanates from one and empowers another.
Mr. Z, is the guy with the beard. Here I am at 15. We’d won an all Ontario medal. It was just the beginning for me. I’ve won marathons and national championships, set a world record – but most importantly, through Mr. Z, I found something I loved, running. That wouldn’t have happened without Mr. Z’s faith in me. How he hounded me to train, to keep at it. He did. I never got a moments rest – he was always encouraging and keeping me in line. And believe me, there were many times I could have fallen and not got up. Thank you Mr. Z. Your belief made a big difference. I hope as a teacher, I can also “believe” in my students as strongly as you did.
I regret not having spent time with him nor telling him directly this. Here I am running in the Hamilton Spectator Games a few years ago. Rounding the 180m track at a speed that almost made me dizzy – I kept hearing this, “Go Deubel” from the stands. I did a warm down lap, looking up to see who it could be. Sure enough, there was Mr. Z. cheering me on like it was 1977 and I was 15 years old. I should have told him then.
But that’s life, it never sits still. There is no center where things hold. We just have to live with our regrets, the best we can.
To end, I hope many of you will watch this video. It’s about death and having regrets. A hard subject for your students. Still, if you do show it, it might just save them from regrets like I have at this moment.
There’s a nice transcript to use in class.