Friday, September 21, 2007

Who says you can't go home?

I went home twice in the last two weeks. First, I went back to my old high school, did a presentation for the entire student body and received two standing ovations. I spent the rest of the day in three classrooms building on points from my ninety-minute program. And, I had a blast! I needed to be in that gym that day. I fed off of the energy from the students and everything just clicked. I had them laughing one minute and just like that you could have heard a pin drop. I took them on a long roller coaster ride, and based on many conversations I had that day, and the following weekend, I made a difference. That's the whole idea. I only have students long enough to plant the seeds, then I turn them back to the teachers to nurture them.

Then, last weekend I went home again and watched the high school football team win their first game of the season in impressive fashion by a score of 26 to 12. After the game, I asked the coach if I could go into the locker room. I gave a very short pep talk and congratulated them on a well-played game. There was a lot of positive energy in the room, the kids were pumped, as was I, and I entered the locker room for the first time since the night I got hurt in 1971.

After the locker room cleared out, I sat and talked to the head coach, Dennis Hale, and a longtime assistant coach, Don Kuiper. Coach Kuiper was actually one of the assistant coaches when I got hurt. He has spent close to 40 years teaching and coaching in the Worthington school district.

They showed me a new type of offense they were running called, "The Wristband Offense." I had never seen a team play that style of offense before. I have to say it looked pretty complicated. It was very impressive to watch their team play an entire game without huddling and watching the kids read the plays from their wristband.

We went over their scorebook and analyzed what had just happened. I was curious to know how many more plays they could get in without running a standard offense where the team huddled after every play to call the next play. They were able to run 78 plays while their opponent only ran 54. With that kind of play count advantage over the course of the year they will certainly have a dramatic advantage over their opponents. Besides that, it was fun to watch. Their offense was spread out all over the field. They threw the ball 38 times for more than 225 yards. That's a lot of passing plays for a high school team to run in a single game.

Another one of the highlights for me that evening was talking to several students who approached me and thanked me for my presentation the week before at Worthington High School. I know how difficult it can be for a teenager to approach me sometimes. It's not that I'm not approachable; it's just not something many young people have an opportunity to do because speakers aren't usually around a school a week later.

That's one of the reasons why I like to spend an entire day in the building when I visit a school. I truly believe a major part of my success comes from the fact I don't just go into a building, do my presentation and go on to the next building. I believe a lot of learning takes place in the classroom visits that follow my assembly program.

The classroom visits allow me time to do a couple of experiential exercises that build on very important points I make in my assembly. It also gives students an opportunity to ask questions they might not otherwise get to ask in a large assembly in a gymnasium or auditorium. When classrooms are connected to the Internet, I like to take kids to my website and show them pictures of my accident, my hospitalization, my van and several other cool things. It’s all about those “teachable moments.”

It’s not true; you can go home.

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