By: Sam Scarborough
Most of us have either asked this question or heard it in our classrooms. When I tell people I’m going to be an English teacher, the usual question I’m asked is, “So what do you wanna coach?” Why is our society so inclined to stereotype all male teachers as coaches? Many of us have had a male teacher in our secondary education that understood us, engaged us and made us want to learn. However, as a child of Alabama, I have also had a male “teacher” in which I knew more of his subject matter than him, but at least our football team went to state under his leadership! This emphasis on sports is one reason for the downfall of American education, primarily in the social sciences but other subjects as well. I’m asking for a call to action for all future and current male teachers to please understand and reverse this curse on the education system.
Don’t confuse my message here, I am not stating that all teachers who coach a sport are washed up football players that couldn’t make it in the NFL. In high school I played varsity tennis and baseball. I have a love for those games that some wouldn’t be able to understand and I would love to be an assistant coach when I graduate. One thing is different though: I am an educator first and a coach second. I think this motto has been lost in our age of education. I have interviewed several of my high school teachers and I got two responses that were eerily similar.
“If you want a job teaching, you better coach something”
“In my interview, I was asked specifically if I would coach a certain sport, even if I knew nothing about it.”
Why is athletics a key point in hiring a teacher? One’s ability to coach should not be a deciding factor for a History teacher position, but sadly it is. As I stated before, I grew up in Alabama. Football is king as I’m sure most of you know (War Eagle!). State championships have become a holy grail to schools in my district and the competition is fierce. I grew up in a small football town by the name of Gardendale. One thing I never noticed until I decided to become a teacher was half of my teachers were football coaches. They all were assistant coaches that came to the school with our newly hired head coach. One taught math, the rest taught Social Science. I use the word “teach” here very liberally. It was more of writing down names and dates and regurgitating the information. The school even created a new class so that one coach could be hired on as a teacher! I was appalled when I found out. I was stripped of my full potential in high school due to the fact I had second-rate educators who only cared about a game and not the education of the students.
This athletics over teaching issue has gone far enough and I want to put it to an end. Teachers should not be robbed of their teaching potential to coach a sport they have never played and students should not be robbed of their education due to a coach with no interest in teaching. If you are currently a coach and reading this, please listen to these words. Put down the playbook and pick up that textbook. Review your resources, update your teaching methods and engage with your students. You have a mission as a teacher to educate your students to the best of your ability and show them the beauty of knowledge. Dear principals, please look at your school and evaluate your teacher/coaches. Make sure your students are getting what they deserve and not just dates on a PowerPoint with a quiz at the end. Let’s start a collective push for education not only here in my home state, but wherever this issue is arising. Let’s make sure our students see the light in this world.
Sam is a 20 year old English Education major studying at Auburn University. He grew up right outside the Birmingham area. Watching the education system he had been a part of is what inspired him to become a teacher!