Saturday, June 25, 2011

COMING SOON: TEACHERS LIKE WE'VE NEVER SEEN THEM BEFORE

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A peek at the trailer for the upcoming production of the Diocese of Paranaque Parochial Schools Association production featuring the diocese's school personnel. No lesson plans, just a whole lot of talent!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

LESSONS FROM DIRK AND LEBRON: THE NBA AS A TEACHING TOOL

Work has kept me from watching the NBA season live. That has been my sad plight since I started teaching in 1994. Having worked in advertising from 1991 to 1993, it was much easier to catch a quarter or two in the post production room with a rowdy bunch of Bulls fans. And for two jobless years when I was my mom's fulltime caregiver, I was soaking in the Boston Celtics victory, remembering the 80's when telecasts were 3 months delayed, and all we had were Celtics and Lakers games.

The NBA for me has always been ripe with teachable moments. Here are some of them:

The NBA and Language Arts

More than any other televised sporting event, I find the NBA to be the most transferable and appropriate to my work as an educator. Sorry, arnis and Azkals-infected soccer, but basketball is STILL the national game. Proof of that is my expletive-laden facebook newsfeed for every game day of this year's NBA finals and all the relevant playoff games. In previous years, I have designed NBA-themed language exams (ok, sometimes I switch to tennis or Formula 1, but the NBA themes get better ratings, so to speak), and it was so much of a wicked thrill to use such sentence completion items like "Kobe ______ to pass more and shoot less." I could hear the snickers from the students, and I'm glad that everyone ended up writing "needs" on the blank.

I always tell my students that the best examples of idioms can be heard from NBA play-by-play commentators. Marv Albert on TNT is my all-time favorite, but half-time analyses are just hilarious when Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith are onboard (Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller are ok, but they're not as irreverent). NBA vocabulary  and jargon have become part of our lexicon--from "posterized" to "raise the roof", from "nothing but net" to "deep bench", "sixth man" to "lottery team". I'm sure that other sports broadcasts are just as words-worthy, but basketball, being so much less complicated and more graceful than, say, American football, inspires more interesting idioms. Still, I have some issues with our local broadcasters sticking their microphones into the NBA finals. Code-switching (e.g. "With fifteen seconds left on the shot clock, inuubos na lang ng Dallas ang oras.") just doesn't sit well with me. You either do play-by-play in straight English, or do it in straight Filipino. There were many crucial and momentous parts of the finals that got lost in translation. Sayang!


The NBA and Mathematics

The NBA is also a great way to apply concepts in Statistics. I used to collect basketball cards myself, and I like the ones (the Fleer cards) that feature every conceivable stat there is about the player, including college hoops stats in field goals, rebounds-per-game, etc. Students can easily learn averages, ratios, percentages, and making logical conclusions just be looking at game stats. This can be applied to intramural games, where individual records-keepers must focus on a specific variable while the game is in progress. Simply recording scores is not enough. A player should learn from his stats. How many field goals did I make successfully, vis-a-vis the number of shooting attempts I made (field goal percentage)? If I shot below 50%, how will I raise it to above 50? I am the team's point guard, but I made only 2 assists in the game. What does that say about my effectivity as a point guard? Serious athletes should think this way, and not just care about winning and fret about losing.

Geometry and Physics applications abound in basketball. Angles, force, and motion are very important elements worth understanding if a player wishes to succeed in this game. That is why some outside shooters have "sweet spots", where they have the highest probability of getting the ball in. Smart shooters also know inherently how to use the backboard, how to jump and shoot over taller players and outstretched arms. Instinctive defenders know where to position themselves for the rebound and how to get a clean swipe of the ball. The best point guards have excellent peripheral vision, knowing which of the four people on court will best benefit from his pass. Alley-oops from fastbreaks are one of my most favorite game moments, and perhaps the most spot-on application of geometry and physics combined.

The NBA and Social Studies

Next to the Olympic Games, the NBA can be used as a springboard for teaching Geography, World History and Cultural Studies. Just by knowing the names of the players, students should be able to identify which country, or which region of the world the players hail from. Yao Ming is easy. But what about Stojacovic? Kukoc? Eastern European, if you look at the last syllables. Nowitzki-Obviously German. Ginobili-Argentine,  though I thought he was Italian until I saw him wearing the Argentine jersey in the Olympics. From knowing a player's nationalities, students can then do research on the countries of origin, and the unique and fascinating cultures therein. It is interesting to note that players from Communist countries had a more difficult time entering the U.S. to play professionally than their democratic counterparts, and that these Eastern European (e.g. Croatia, Yugoslavia, etc.) ball players were marksmen on the hardcourt because of their military-like training in their elementary schools. Now don't get me started on Yao Ming's early years in China...

The NBA and Values Education

Not all NBA players are model citizens, of course (Right, Ron Artest? Dennis Rodman? Kobe?). But as a sports league, the NBA has an impressive roster of charity events and advocacies that I'd like to believe are not just publicity stunts. Many African-American superstars have openly talked about rising from poverty by using their basketball skills and a lot of academic discipline to get to where they are now. But back stories of valour and triumph from adversity are not always available for the regular NBA follower. Through a player's demeanor, his actions, and his leadership, young people can pick up lessons in respect, sportsmanship, humility, and gentlemanly behavior. Personally, I have rooted for the league's more boring, less flashy players like Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Tim Duncan, Ray Allen, Larry Bird. One-handed dunks don't impress me much, and trash-talking is a cheap psychological trick to get on the other player's nerves. Basketball for me is still a game of sharp shooting and clean defense. Trash talkers can get in the ring with Pacquiao's mom.

Till next NBA season!


Useful and interesting links:
http://www.melrosegirlsbasketball.com/blog/2011/02/20/core-values-for-basketball/
http://www.nba.com/history/finals/champions.html
http://jonesonthenba.com/2006/12/20-greatest-international-born-nba.html
http://www.coachesclipboard.net/BasketballTerminology.html
http://www.teach-nology.com/teachers/lesson_plans/language_arts/vocab/35basket.html
http://www.nba.com/history/toptenteams_index.html
http://basketballvalue.com/index.php



Saturday, June 11, 2011

PARENTS, THIS ONE'S FOR YOU

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If I could only capture every single moment of a child's life in school, I would, and the parents would be oh so proud.