When sports and education collide…

How would you define culture? Had you asked me this some time ago, I likely would’ve responded with something somewhat generic, or maybe I would have given some examples. At best, I would have said “trust, respect, and responsibility”, for those NTNers out there. That’s what I would’ve said. But then this happened…

Let me back up to say that I have a few passions in my life, two of which include sports (March Madness is a real illness for me and fall weekends are football-centric) and, of course, progressing and improving (math) education. And on occasion, these two passions collide in an awesome way.

As I often do, I spent a night in a hotel room recently prepping for a site visit the following day. With ESPN on in the background, I typed away on my laptop. Longtime SportsCenter host Steven van Pelt caught my attention with a story about this year’s 3rd NBA draft pick who got into some legal trouble. This young man almost immediately responded with a tweet of atonement.

While I can almost recite the commentary about young, entitled athletes that I expected to follow, that’s not where this sports journalist was headed. Instead, he asked viewers who else might be responsible for this behavior. And he brought up this player’s NBA team and (here it is!) the team culture that might subtly or even overtly condone negative behavior.

What’s more, the definition of culture used in this story was the following:

Culture (n): conditions suitable for growth

What if this definition was our guiding question framing culture conversations in education?

As you think about the various cultures at play at your school or in your classroom, what conditions are suitable for your growth or your students’ growth? And what conditions aren’t suitable for growth? We hope that students enter our classrooms each day with the intention to be fully dedicated to their peers and to learning. But we know intentions are often best laid, and then not followed. So how do we bolster the conditions for growth so as to support our students to achieve their intentions, and for us to learn and grow with colleagues?

I can’t say I have an answer to those questions. But as one of my passions collides with another, I’ve at least found my new answer to the question, “How would you define culture?”