Monday, October 23, 2017

Creating a Learning Environment

I just want everyone to know that we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to take some time off from blogging and be renewed mentally.  This time as allowed both Kevin and myself to be able to reflect on KBJ Academy and our current needs we see.  We noticed that our audience has expanded beyond the sports world and we have gained attention from not only players or coaches but also college students, children, teachers and parents.  The fact that you read our blog is a blessing to us and we do not take it for granted.  We appreciate your continued support.

During this time off, Kevin and I have been able to travel hosting various camps such as the men's Top 100.  We have also been serving on a 1 on 1 level with our skills training sessions.  Our most recent visit was to the University of Texas at Arlington for a team building retreat.  The staff there is truly first class and the team is amazing!  Check out this video for some high lights of the day:

We are about to have our second empowering conference that we really believe is the beginning of some powerful things God wants to do through us.  Our goal with this conference is to Empower Men to win in the mind, body and spirit so they can be confident to be the man God has created them to be.  You can look at our Empowered Men's page here to read more about it or reserve your seat: but trust me, you won't want to miss it this Friday!

As we travel and help other people WIN in their goals and aspirations, we had a very interesting dialogue that I want to blog about and share:

Creating a Learning Environment
I have more than 10 years of teaching and coaching in various environments ranging from Pre-Kindergarten all the way to college.  So my youngest child I have ever taught was 3 and in PreK and my....most seasoned student in college was 63.  I must admit that I have quite a unique perspective on the learning environment and I have been able to create it in classrooms, locker rooms, basketball courts and meetings.  I found that certain tools help me in running businesses such as KBJ Academy and TRSS Mentoring as well as coaching players and teaching students of various ages.

  1. Connect with each PERSON and Create a Sense of Belonging: I love the quote "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" by Theodore Roosevelt.  As I am on a quest to create a learning environment I want each person to belong and know that they matter to me. I try to get to know their names, immediate family and something unique about them that they love.  Another way to connect is:
  2. Listen Actively: Most people listed with the intent to refute.  I listen with the intent to hear you.  This helps with giving the most accurate response or in the case of my Kindergarten class - those sweet babies just want to be heard!  So most of the time they just want my undivided attention.  So I give it to them.  I start each morning with allowing them a few minutes to play a game of their choice, then gather them on the carpet for circle time and they get to tell me all about their favorite thing they did last night.  THIS SETS A STANDARD!  It is an unspoken message that says what they have to say matters.  As I begin any lesson or instruction I have shown them what respect looks and sounds like.  So if they do not reciprocate this to me, I remind them "Remember when you talked about how much you loved going to the fair yesterday and I listened to you and gave you eye contact the whole time you spoke and never interrupted you?"  They answer "YES."  So I can finish with "Now its my turn to teach a lesson and I need you to show me the same respect as I showed you."  Almost 99% of the time, they comply immediately. 
  3. KNOW Your Audience: I heard my Pastor - Sheryl Brady say this at her annual Mentorship Moments conference this past week and it confirmed the value of this concept.  Even in her setting as a professional speaker and pastor she understands she is a teacher and one thing she taught was "KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE."  I typically start my day working as a Kindergarten teacher serving 4-5 year old children.  After work, I may have a skills training session with high school level student-athletes ages from 15-17.  On weekends I serve at church in the 7-8 year old class.  So as you probably guess, each place that I transition in and out of, I must know the audience that I will be teaching for that time. I cannot teach my 17 year old the same way I would a 4 year old.  Besides ages - you have to consider learning styles and frame of reference. 
  4. Accommodate EACH LEARNING STYLE in some way in every lesson:  I plan to dig deeper into the LEARNING STYLES and how knowing them can make or break you as a teacher/coach in the next week.  Be looking out for that blog because it is something that I keep circling back to when mentoring other teachers or parents - each person has a difference learning style.  You cannot lecture a primarily visual learner for long and expect them to retain most of the information.  The visual learning needs to see it.  So find a way to incorporate at least the four primary learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Read/Write or Kinesthetic (According to the Neil Fleming's VARK model)  THIS WAS A GAME CHANGER FOR ME AS A COACH!  This helped with teaching plays and scouting reports - understanding my team and coaching staff's learning styles. While considering learning styles also take into account that even once you grab a hold of their style, we all learn at different speeds.  Consider possible disabilities and be mindful of language barriers for students who's first language was not English.  Teaching can be overwhelming to someone who does not know to make room for all these variables. 
  5. Have a PLAN: As a teacher you have curriculum, as a coach you have a practice plan, as a business owner you should have an agenda for every meeting you conduct. Not having a plan opens the door for chaos!  It opens you up to possibilities of being sidetracked or going longer than expected.  It is also a measuring tools for you to have record of topics discussed.  I'll switch gears and tell you about my experience coaching.  Five years I lead three different college programs and changed losing cultures to winning cultures.  I was instrumental in the hiring of my successor at each school I left because they trusted my input.  More importantly than my input, I left a notebook and clear cut plan of how I navigated my time at each program to the next coach along with a blue print of how I planned each season, game and practice.  These tools were valuable in making sure that these programs were in better condition than when I started there.  Making a plan is not to keep you in bondage and control you - instead it is to help guide you and give clear cut direction to everyone that is with you!  Players would come into the gym at least an hour prior to practice to get warm and get some shots up because they knew that when practice time started - we were rolling and we had expectations from the tip!  I noticed that players looked for this plan and would ask questions like "Any new drills today coach?"  When you hear these kinds of questions - you have set a standard that learning is the expectation and they come in looking forward to the day.
  6. Articulate the GOAL:  One things I know is that the season is long!  Yet in the blink of an eye its over.  You may set goals formally with your team, you may just verbally say "We want to win."  In whatever way you choose - I think it is necessary to set goals for not only every season, but also for every game and we even broke it down by quarter.  So by the end of the first quarter we wanted 10 defensive stops!  We even had goals in practice.  We want to make 100 lay-ups in 2 minutes.  These players know that they can't walk to meet this goal.  The same is true for my classroom.  I tell my 4-5 year olds what the goal is "Today I want everybody focused and engaged for our reading lesson because I am going to ask a few questions afterwards and I'm going to pick somebody to answer.  So lets pay attention to this story." You would be surprised how simply articulating a goal will captivate CHILDREN and grab their attention.  No punishment attached and no incentive either - simply a GOAL to FOCUS!When dealing with children I believe that talking to them and have the same consistent expectations creates a normalcy that they will adjust to and live out.  I believe they learn best when it is made clear to them that running inside is not safe for them or anyone else.  
  7. Evaluate and Give FEEDBACK: Now I wrote about feedback almost a year ago and I still hold true to my beliefs on the necessity of it.  Please read this post about the difference between feedback vs. constructive criticism because I truly believe it will broaden your perspective on how you engage with your students, players or employees.  Feedback is necessary for creating a learning environment because a huge part of the learning process is oftentimes re-teaching.  Feedback given with love can open your students up to want to learn more.  This is going to either strengthen or break your trust how you handle it so be cautious.  As you assess and evaluate each person's execution of your direction, be ready to give them accurate feedback on their ability.  
As always, my goal is to help teachers, coaches, managers, maybe even parents create a learning environment where learning is expected by your subordinates.  I hope that you believe in life long learning because as you continue to grow in knowledge so will all those who follow you.  Please share this article with somebody and feel free to comment back your thoughts.