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I’m not always right.

I hope you were sitting down, as that astonishing admission may have floored some of you. What? The guy who writes his opinion as if it were the absolute way things should be is wrong at times? Of course, some of you are thinking, “Well, duh, he’s wrong about a lot of things!”

Yes, I’m opinionated, and I’ll often be quite candid about how my ideal world might look. But if everyone agreed with me, I’d run out of things to write about!

However, I’ll admit when I’ve made a mistake. The key is the willingness to listen to other ideas and gauge all the options for the best outcome. When my students write persuasive papers, I stress how important it is to acknowledge the opposing point of view. Not only does it make the other side feel as if they’ve been listened to, but it helps you understand your opponent better if you’re able to get inside their game plan.

We don’t like to listen as much in our hectic world. We just want to make a decision and move on, often without thinking things through. We want our voice heard, and now let’s keep going. You have a thought about it? Too bad, we don’t need to stop for that; isn’t it obvious?

I’ve been thinking about this for two reasons. One is that parent-teacher conferences are right around the corner again. I’ll often talk about what I’ve seen to a parent. If there is a problem, I’ve got two options. Sometimes there is a practical solution; if a student is getting some easy things wrong, it’s a matter of taking a little extra time. However, another option is to hear about the student and some problems I might not be aware of, which need to be known in order to come up with an answer. For instance, maybe work isn’t getting done on weekends when the child is with the other parent. Then I need to contact that parent and try to talk through the problem. But I wouldn’t know that if I didn’t stop to listen.

What becomes bothersome is when we come up with a potential solution and then it’s not followed through on at home. I’m not just blowing wind to hear my own voice; I do like to see my students have some measure of success. So it’s frustrating when I talk and there’s no listening done from the other side. If we try something and I’m wrong in my idea, then we’ll try something else.

The other reason I’ve been thinking about this is the distressing behavior I’ve seen and heard about regarding our Panther fans at athletic events. NRHEG is rapidly becoming known as having the worst sportsmanship in the area.

We have some tremendous supporters of Panther sports, and most of our fans are very good. However, just like in school, it’s 5-10% that act foolish. It seems that some of our fans think we’re entitled in some way and deserve every call to go our way. There’s always a movement early in games to start to question and belittle the officials. This is the sure sign of people who are worried about the possibility of losing and want a quick excuse for why it’s not our team’s fault. Let’s just blame the officiating.

It’s a rare game I’ve ever seen that has been decided by poor officiating. Good teams learn to play through bad calls and adjust to the way the game is being called. As a coach, I’m going to get after officials if I think there are blatant mistakes being made, especially if they favor the other team. Part of my job is to defend my players and give them a fair chance.

BUT. (I know that’s a fragment, but it’s for emphasis!) It NEVER helps your team when you constantly rant at the officials. I’ve mentioned this before too, but if you’ve never officiated a sport, especially at that level, you need to sit down and keep your trap shut. You can certainly mutter to the person next to you that you think the ref missed something, but the whining is embarrassing. Go get your officiating license. I’m sure the MSHSL will welcome all the knowledgeable people sitting in our stands, as there is a shortage of officials.

I have a standing joke in my classroom with a container of Q-tips, which I sometimes suggest when a student hasn’t listened. We all need the chance to clean out our ears and listen to others, considering their ideas. We also need to listen to ourselves so we don’t make an embarrassment of NRHEG and learn how to show good sportsmanship and Panther Pride, especially during the playoffs. Thank you for your kind attention and please keep on listening!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is arenicolous, which means living, growing, or burrowing in sand, as in, “The arenicolous ostrich didn’t want to listen to anything, so he stuck his head straight down in the sand.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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