Late Start

August 11, 2015

Business took me to Indianapolis for a meeting on Thursday, July 30. Of the eight other meeting participants, four lived in Indiana, three lived in Georgia and one in Montana.

I learned that school was already in session for many schools of both Indiana and Georgia, four weeks prior to the start of classes for most Montana schools ... and six weeks before state law allows public schools to commence classes for students in Michigan.

These dramatic differences undermine any seriousness or sense of urgency in this state’s efforts to improve public education.

The scene that replays in my memory is of an all-district in-service day at a Michigan school district where the staff was busy in the cafeteria, while the students lounged outside the school and milled about the school halls, bored.

“Our kids are already here and ready to be in class,” the school superintendent told me; “but state law penalizes us if we dare to begin teaching them.”

I think of this as school sports teams and marching bands and cheerleaders are already hard at work this week honing their skills in extracurricular activities. Wouldn’t it be great if lawmakers would allow our students to be doing the same in academic classrooms?

If our students are lagging behind academically, it might have something to do with the fact that they start each year two or three laps behind kids in other states.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.