I get a visceral twinge whenever a kid calls me "coach." Not because I don't enjoy that particular epithet as applied to the job that I do running a weekly physical education program at an elementary school. I like the sound of it: "What are we going to do today, coach?" Or "Can I help put out the cones, coach?" That's fine. It's the echo that it sends through my head as I remember all the times I used that same moniker on my typing teacher.
The reality of public education started becoming clear to me in junior high school when I went out for wrestling and showed up for my first day of practice and found myself sitting on a mat across from my typing teacher. He was there, in part, because of his love of the sport, but also because it meant an additional check each month during wrestling season. And why he was also the middleweight football coach. And the boys' track coach. This is what he was doing to invigorate that part of his life that thrived on athletic competition. That and those extra checks to supplement his typing teacher's salary.
Not that I was fully aware of all those economic realities at the time, but I knew I was on a slippery slope when I showed up for typing class and responded to "Good morning, Caven," with "Good morning, coach." The switch had been made. Somehow "Coach" had superseded "Mister." The home row key drills started to make sense more as physical tests than mental. I learned touch typing in the same fashion I learned how to shoot a double leg takedown. Repetition and reward. Here was a place that there really was an A for effort.
I learned a lot from the coach. I use those keyboarding skills every day, the ones I learned in the classroom. The wrestling moves have faded into the past, but the rigor remains. I know that every lesson learned requires some effort on the part of the learner. I try and dial down my exhortations to the kids in my room, but I want them to have expectations of themselves. It's about potential. I was eventually coached to second place in the district's B Mat wrestling tournament. My coach got me to a place that I never thought I would go. Which is what teachers should do. And coaches too. Good teachers and coaches. Without that little twinge.