The Heart of a True Teacher

This past Friday, I spoke at Jefferson High School in East Texas. I met with the school superintendant and her staff, then did an assembly for the student body, met with the football team, and finally had lunch with the head football coach.

It was the coach that arranged this series of meetings. His name is Scott Hale. He has been a teacher and coach for longer than a generation. I could tell he was involved in education for the right reasons. Let me tell you the signals he sent that let me know.

First, as he walked across the campus, all the students greeted him. You could tell he had cultivated relationships with each of them. For many it was not just a greeting, but a specific comment they made to him or vice versa.

Second, he was chosen to introduce me for the school assembly. Why? He had initiated the “Habitudes For Athletes” program for his team. He was all about using the game of football to teach life, leadership and character. Football was more than a game. It was about building men.

Third, as he saw his players around the campus, he asked them about their personal lives. Little things, like, “Did you find your socks?” or “How’s your sister?” Furthermore, when he saw a mom whose son just graduated and now plays for Kansas State University, he said, “I just spoke to your son — it sounds like he’s adjusting to college really well.” The two of them talked for a while as I looked on.

Fourth, when I asked about his philosophy of teaching, he spoke about loving kids. Although math and reading are important, relationships and growth were more so. He teaches at a school with a number of single parent homes and even at-risk kids.  He knows all of them. In fact, in the restaurant where we ate, everyone smiled and greeted him by name. He’s like an “anchor” in that town. Steady ands strong. He told me his best friend coaches at a rival school. The two had just conversed about letting their freshmen players get some playing time when they competed on Friday night; both teams would put them in at the same time and allow them to get some experience. Immediately I realized that for him, coaching was about more than winning; it was about creating growth experiences for his players.

What might surprise you is — he’s been a part of a number of state and national championship teams. His team has made the playoffs every year for the last 13 years. Students and athletes just win under his leadership. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so. I wish his philosophy of teaching was a contagious virus, and was caught by every teacher and coach in America.

Thanks Scott for what you do and why you do it.


The Heart of a True Teacher