Extra Innings and Building Kites

The March morning was gorgeous and the game was moving fast. The kids, two teams of six and seven year old tee-ballers, were having fun as their parents cheered them on, not a negative voice from the crowd, even when the shortstop and centerfielder started wrestling behind second base.

photoJogging back the bench with the team I coach, the other coach and I met halfway through the third inning. “What do you think,” he asked, “want to play an extra inning?”

In the spirit of Ernie Banks’ famous suggestion for a doubleheader -“let’s play two!”- we agreed to let the kids go another round. The reward was two happy teams, an extra quarter hour beneath the springtime sun, and a lesson I hope to bring back to the work I do as a principal.

Life is a ballgame, or so the old song goes, being played each day, and when things are flowing, particularly with kids, there’s something right about abandoning expectations and playing an extra inning.

I see examples of this joy and connection in the classes I visit. The teachers I work with know how to set up experiences for kids that challenge and engage them, and then prowl around the classroom with questions that help students connect with subject matter as diverse as Andrew Jackson and cutting open sheep hearts. These teachers know that encouraging that engagement, allowing time for the meaningful struggle that is learning, and helping kids find the joy in their studies is the real way kids learn.

It’s not unlike a quotation by Herman Horne I spotted at a neighborhood park last summer.

Ideally, all work for adults should be like a youth making a kite.”

Picturing Horne’s late 19th century youngster putting paper on wood, back bent as she leans over the project, mind drifting to the kite rising into the sky, I’d extend that notion beyond what we do as adults. I’d suggest that all the best learning does just the same. In cases like this, time disappears, and whether it’s that youth and the kite or a student today coding a video game, magic happens where concentration and experimentation intersect.

photo 4 (6)Now I’m not suggesting that we make class periods longer; the same timelessness and focus on learning can come about as teachers adjust during their lessons to maximize student engagement and opportunities to extend learning, nor am I saying that I’d like to push summer back a couple of weeks. But I do know that on our best days, when we’re connected and the kids are really learning, there’s a whisper in my heart that says: “let’s go another inning!”

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