Newcomer Wisdom

November 20, 2012

A group I work with in my spare time, the Refugee Development Center, sponsored a team in a local youth soccer league.  Appropriately, the team’s nickname is “Newcomers.”

It took the team most of the season to score a goal; and it was in its final game of the season that the team earned its first victory.

After one game, I was enlisted to transport three players to their residences.  All three were Napali.  I used this time to ask their opinions about the education they were receiving in the local public school.

They had no objection to the content of the courses, but criticized the conduct of their classmates.  They cited a lack of respect for teachers, and a lack of discipline.  They had experienced the discipline of the stick in their homeland, and believed it would be helpful to classrooms in the US.

These young newcomers also noted that their instructional day in Nepal was almost two hours longer, plus they were in school a half-day on Saturdays.

From this conversation I was once again impressed that much of what has been done in attempts to improve public education has overlooked the obvious:  stronger discipline and longer days.  Most of what we do in US public education is the envy of the world.  What people from other countries wonder about is the lack of discipline and time on task. 

Empowering and supporting teachers’ discipline and increasing the length of the school day and year are not sexy solutions to what ails public education.  They are just simpler answers mostly overlooked.

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.