Thursday, August 7, 2014

Notetaking Warrior Learning Style!

"Read pages 1-25 from the text and take notes and turn in tomorrow at the start of class."
This type of "instruction" has been increasingly mocked in the last decade for good reason.  However, many have taken this mocking to mean that we should not read textbooks or take notes anymore.  No, that's not my take on the mocking.  My take is that we need to choose good texts and make sure to give the ourselves a structure to build our own individual understanding of what the text presents.  That's what we will deal with here, the structure that allows our students to build their own understanding of the content presented by a text.
Let's start with a couple of metaphors.  First, the warriors.  We need to become Warrior Learners and practice Warrior Learning.  I like this romanticized version of Uncas from James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans.
Or for the girls in our class, we could go with this:
Either way, we need to transform ourselves into Learning Warriors as we need to approach our learning from an active and ferocious perspective.  We need to think of ourselves as the guardians of our own villages of knowledge.  We need to protect ourselves from ignorance and we need to be the hunters of greater understanding.  We need to change ourselves from passive receptors of facts and figures, (the people of the village who simply exist, the students who merely take notes and turn them in) into those who seek greater mastery and better clarity like the warriors of the village.  If we actively and ferociously learn, we won't ever just, "Read pages 1-25 from the text and take notes and turn in tomorrow at the start of class."
Now that we've remade ourselves as Learning Warriors (and this is an ongoing process that takes some much longer than others), on to the next metaphor.  It's time to eat.  We're going to treat our reading assignment as if we're going to eat a baked potato.  When served, the potato can look something like this:

However, depending on one's tastes, after adding some fixings it can end up looking like this:

Or, it can look like this:
Regardless of one's taste, nobody eats a baked potato as it was served, just plain.  We make it into something really tasty and enjoyable and happily eaten.  That's got to be our attitude toward notetaking, we eat it when we make it ours, we don't just eat what the textbook served us, we eat the information the way it tastes good to us.  We need to transform the information into something that's more palatable and something we can digest better so we can remember it and use it better.  If we can read and take notes in this manner, we will have not only transformed ourselves, but we will have transformed the information.  We will have a deep, individual, and meaningful understanding.  We will have moved up or down a number of intelligences and begun to truly understand for ourselves what it is we are supposed to know.
This won't be easy or simple or always fun, but we will know how we know what we know and we will know why. 
It won't be anywhere near the drama of the opening scene of 300, where the young Spartan boy is cast into a world of violence and made into a killer and is able to fend for himself against the wolves, both metaphorical and literal.
But we will be stronger and more powerful when we have mastered the art of Notetaking Warrior Learning Style!
How do we do this?
We start with a Google Presentation Template like this:

And we take the metaphorical plain baked potato and we make it to our own tastes.  We do this by breaking the chapter into the seven AP US History themes, Identity, America in the World, Work Exchange Technology, Ideas Beliefs Culture, Politics and Power, Environment and Geography, and Peopling.  We need to define and regularly redefine the themes as they evolve in US history.  Just that ability to redefine and track how the themes change throughout the course is a great lesson in historiography, but this will allow us to be able to understand what we are looking for in each chapter. 
We are required to write down the chapter number, title and dates of the chapter in order to make them stop and think why the chapter is titled as it is and to get them into the mode of using the different cues and clues that the texts use to make the words more accessible.
Their first run through the chapter is designed to get the us to understand the breadth (but not the depth) of the chapter and the different ideas that the authors thought were important enough to mention in the title or the section subtitles or to include as a visual as a map a diagram or a photo, painting, or cartoon as this example from Kennedy's The American Pageant shows.  
We don't want to waste our time taking notes that won't matter when the chapter is over, so if we understand the bigger picture, we won't be taking notes on the first sentence or page of the chapter unless they're going to matter when the chapter is finished.
Now that the bigger picture seems clear, the notes can be taken as we take our second pass through the chapter and "read" it as opposed to skimming as we did in the first go through.  With that said we enter the second stage of Notetaking Warrior Learning Style.  Now we need to get into the actual words and see if the information we think is important has any kind of backing in the form of examples and details.  We need to understand the hierarchy of information.  We need to know that ideas are at the broadest and most general level and that examples are more specific and that details are at the most specific level of information.  We are going to take this ladder of information straight into our essays as we introduce ideas and back them with examples and explain the examples with details in the body paragraphs.  Thus, the second slide in the template looks like this:
How do we differentiate between the three different levels?  However it happens is immaterial but we need to KNOW how it happens.  We could start with the ideas like Jacksonian Democracy in 1832 or Colonial Disunity in 1754 or Women's Rights in 1848 and find Andrew Jackson, "Join or Die, or The Seneca Falls Convention as the examples of these big ideas.  Another way is to locate examples and push to find proper nouns.  You know, the words that start with capital letters!  What ideas do these proper nouns illustrate and how do they illustrate them?  How did Andrew Jackson personify Jacksonian Democracy?  How did Franklin's "Join or Die" illustration exemplify colonial disunity in 1754?  How did the Seneca Falls Convention represent the level of women's rights in 1848?

From here we need to find the important details we will use to explain why these ideas were important and how our examples illustrated our big ideas.  Regarding Jackson, we could use the details of his upbringing in backwoods North and South Carolina and his hardscrabble existence and then his movement west to get started as a lawyer and speculator.  For many white men of his time, his life was their inspiration to set out and make a living the west for themselves.  What were the details?  The Wraxhaws, his movement to Nashville, who he worked for and how he earned his living.  The more specific the better.  For "Join or Die" we could use the lack of delegates at Franklin's Albany Congress and their inability to assert themselves against their British "superiors" to explain how disunited the colonists were in 1754 and how Franklin's illustration showed it.  In other words, only seven of the thirteen colonies were present, Franklin published the image in his own newspaper , the Pennsylvania Gazette,  and was used to urge unity against the French and their native allies, NOT against the British.  For Seneca Falls we could use excerpts of the Declaration of Sentiments to show how women had been excluded from many of the rights listed in the Declaration of Independence and how many men were able to take those rights for granted.  For instance, we could use the opening lines, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal."  We could explain that Lucretia Mott had been refused the opportunity to speak at the Wold Slavery Convention in London in 1840 because she was a woman even though she was a full delegate at the convention.This would clarify how many women began to look at their rights and realize that they had a way to go before they were the political equal of men.
This is what one student's notes looked like in the chapters that covered Jackson, "Join or Die," and the Seneca Falls Convention.
Now that we've taken our notes, it's time to put the books away and focus on our notes.  We need to build questions for the information we have gathered.  What question would these notes answer?  With that type of interrogative perspective, we will understand whether we have gathered good information or whether we need to go back redo our notes.  We'll also build an understanding as to what is a good "how and why" question.  We're asked to build three quiz questions that our notes would cover.  In essence we're asked to anticipate what would be a good question that our notes would be able to answer.  From there through the notetaking and quiztaking process, we quickly learn what are good questions, but more importantly, what are good notes.
Let's fast forward to the six weeks leading up to the APUSH test.  Now we've finished the textbook and we're done with the overall historical timeline.  We need to review and solidify what we've learned.  Now we go back and "redo" our notes.
We are asked to pull the themes out of the chapters and put them into thematic Google Presentations.  For The American Pageant, instead of 42 different chapter presentations with about seven slides per chapter, we have seven thematic presentations with about 42 different slides.  Now that we've gone through overall history, we can look at it differently though a distinctly thematic perspective.  We're also asked to make any modifications or adjustments to each slide, add a visual that will illustrate the main point of that slide and create a question that the information on that slide would answer.  Here's how the corresponding slides looked after the review process.

Now as we're preparing for the most rigorous AP test going, we've gone over our notes a number of times and transformed our learning and understanding each time.  If we've fully followed this process, we've not only given ourselves a chance to pass the APUSH test, we've also gained a three dimensional understanding of US history and begun to understand how to view history from our own perspective and how to develop that perspective.
In the end, we have truly taken a somewhat unpalatable offering and made it digestible.  We've transformed the baked potato from dry and bland to exciting and tasty according to our own tastes.  We've also changed ourselves from passive note takers into ferocious, engaged Warrior Learners, who have primed ourselves for success.  We can take massive amounts of information that is completely new and over the course of less than a year make it familiar and useful.
That's our Notetaking Warrior Learning Style!  What do you think?  Let me know.  Learning is my business.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Class Blog--Is it ever finished?

After playing with the idea for years, finally, this year, my AP US History and AP Econ and Gov classes are going to produce, build, and write class blogs.
I did like my daughter does, I resisted suggestions to make a class blog until I KNEW EXACTLY how it would work.  (Well, not exactly, but much better than I did before)
Below is a picture of my daughter being thrown through the air into the pool even though she isn't quite ready to dive...  She's quite happy for me to throw her, but she's not quite ready to dive on her own... One of these days she'll be ready to dive and then it will happen.  Until then...

Why did I finally make the leap?  After years of tinkering and playing, I finally saw how our blog could be interwoven into our insanely time-intensive classes and how they would help us consistently answer our most basic questions.  I finally understood how they would work.
Opening Credits from "Run Lola Run"
My driving questions are central to the blog.  How do we get 100% of our students to work together to a common goal that helps all of us somewhat equally?  How can we blend responsibility with freedom of opinion to help us learn better?  How can we learn to think, write, and communicate better?  How can we learn the writing and creative process in a group manner>?How can we learn to see issues, ideas, and attitudes from different perspectives?  And finally, how do we know if "IT" is ever finished?
Opening Credits from "Run Lola Run"
We are going to watch the opening to the 1998 movie, "Run Lola Run" to give the students a visual understanding of the different constraints under which we are going operate, the types of questions we
Opening Credits from Run Lola Run
need to be good with answering, and the pace with which we need to move.  We need to understand that our challenge is daunting, no question, but at the same time, the reward is great if we work together to reach our goal.  I could follow our friend Thomas Paine in "The Crisis":
By each student publicly communicating his/her understandings and allowing him/herself to be critiqued in a positive manner, I hope we can reach our goal of all our students learning and understanding enough of US History and historical thinking to be able to pass the APUSH test in May. Likewise with AP Econ and Government, we need to understand macroeconomic and government concepts and thinking well enough to be able to pass the AP Macro and AP Gov tests next May.
Finally, we will also have a place for civil discourse regarding what we're learning and how we're learning and understanding it.
For years my students have used Google Sites to build their own personal blogs which have worked as a simple place to turn in their work and keep it as a portfolio of sorts.
These have worked very well at streamlining the turn in process and keeping the students' work in one place as well as teaching the students how to manage a personal blog and keep their work organized. However, now we need to go bigger time, now we need to get all our thoughts and ideas together and see where it takes us.
How are we going to do it?  We're going to use Blogger as we're a Google District and we've given all students access to this very flexible and powerful tool.  I've set up a very basic blog for both my APUSH and APEG classes and it's up to them to decorate it in a manner they decide.

 In order to get started, I go into Blogger and click on my Minarets APUSH 2014-15 blog and I get the overview screen.  From there, I click on settings

After that I add my students' emails to add them as authors and then I can decide on how "public" I'd like the blog to be with public as the default.
OK, so what's the assignment, you ask.  Here it is:
When all is said and done at the end of the year, we hope that we'll build a place for all the students to use as their voice as well as a resource for them to reference when they are studying for midterms, finals and the AP test.  We also hope to prove that the sum of the individuals is greater than the whole and that we can learn more together than we can separately.
Finally, the above blog post is something of an experiment from an idea I got from David Theriault's blog, The Readiness is All.  He had his students build presentations from blog posts, which is an idea I would like my students to pursue in order to gain a more multimedia aspect to their blogs.  As you can see, I could keep working on this, which brings us back to one of the main questions, "Is it ever finished?"  Well, I'm going to post this now, which means on one level that it is finished.  However, if you see something you like or don't like, you could comment on this post and thus continue the process.  This idea of ongoing debate or inquiry is a concept I'd like my students to pursue.  On one hand, they have to finish their work and turn it in, but they can continue to debate and question what they are learning in the never ending quest to find out how they know what they know, which is a question we are constantly looking to answer in my classroom as seen below:
What do you think?  Please let me know because as the blog says, "Learning is my Business."

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Students Grade the Teachers

The other day, my wife did something she does all the time, she had a great idea.  She suggested that the students grade the teachers.  We, the teachers, build a rubric and an evaluation form and then the students grade the teachers EVERY day.
I love the idea!  I'm thinking my rubric would look on a first run like this-Daily Teaching Rubric.  My evaluation form would look like this-Daily Teaching Eval Form.
Immediately, my "I want to be a perfect teacher all the time" mode kicks in.  I see immediately that I'm usually not very good with the hook and then my closing activities are bad.  So, I'm starting with a B at best in my mind, but I have to work on my hooks and closures and get myself up to an A, right?
Yes, but, what I really want is to be able to get the students more involved in their education and also to get them to learn better how I use grades to communicate with them.  If I can use this rubric to get the students to actively judge me for every class I teach, I hope I can get them to think more about how they learn and how active they are in this process.
Sure, they judge me all the time, but it's more passive like, "This class sucks today" or "Kelly's in a bad mood today" and they leave it at that.  What if they could do something about it?  What if they were graded on their grade/evaluation of me?
Would they start to understand better how I grade them all the time?  Would they understand the rubrics and the content better?  Would they learn better?
One of my best students asked me how much I grade and I told him about 10 hours per week.  He was astonished.  I told him I need to keep my finger on the pulse of the class and the different students.  I need to be constantly looking at what the students are doing and how they're doing it so I can see if and how they're learning the concepts I'd like them to learn or to see if they're making progress on our current project.  By regularly grading my students' work, I can answer the following questions, do I need to more explicitly address a concept or a step in the project?  Can we move more quickly?  Do I need to change our approach to this topic?  How could I do this better next time?
How would the students react to grading their teacher?  I don't know, but I want to learn.  I would hope they would examine what they're being asked to do every class period and better understand why they're doing it or ask "why" if they don't know.  I would hope that this would allow them to gain a better view of how they're learning and would allow them the opportunity to be more active in how they learn.
At the same time, I'd like to give them a template to judge the people they're always judging in a very unspecific and passive manner.  By grading me, they have to ask themselves if and how their learning in my class.  They also can specifically address strengths and weaknesses in the delivery of their class.
As I always tell the students at the start of the school year and around Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for them, because without them, I wouldn't have a job.  It's their school and their class and too many of them are too passive in their learning and too passive in their judgements of their teachers.  I want to change that.
Certainly, we'd have to spend some time learning better how to use and apply rubrics and what I'm trying to achieve with each class.  If I did this well, it would be time well spent as again the students would better understand the method behind all this madness.
I think it would also be somewhat fun to have the students turn the tables on me and be able to call me out on my strengths and weaknesses.  As of now, the students get to evaluate me at the end of the quarters and semesters, but not on a more regular basis and without a standard like the rubric.
Another way this would help my classes is as a closing activity.  Like I said, my closures are bad.  I almost always run up to the bell and we stop at some point in the middle of the activity and the kids are on their way to lunch or their next class.  This grading/evaluating would work as a great daily summative activity for the period.
Finally, I am also looking to always be a better teacher myself.  If I can use this rubric and the students' grades of me, to become better at my profession, this could truly be a win-win for all involved.  However, the main focus is to get the students to learn better how they're being asked to learn and for them to better understand how I grade their work.
What do you think?  Let me know.  Learning is my business!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Bring Your Parent to School Day!

The other day, I had the good fortune to read a great article by Katrina Schwartz for, "How Opening Up Classroom Doors Can Push Education Forward."  She wrote about how giving parents a glimpse into our classrooms would add transparency which would benefit teachers, parents, students, schools, and education in general.  I really like her ideas of using social media as a modern version of the classroom newsletter, which I am definitely going to adapt for my classes (and I'll let you know how that goes).
However, I really feel that if we get the parents to physically enter our classrooms while their students are in there, we all gain a great connection to each other and our roles in the educational process.  Which is why I think we need to turn the tables on the parents.  Let's have "Bring Your Parent to School Day!"
I think it's great that kids go to work with their parents from time to time, but what if we brought the parents to school?  They could see, as kids do when they go to work, what a day in the life of their students is like.  What and how they learn would be the main focus, but just getting from class to class and juggling workloads and dealing with their different peers and teachers would probably more illuminating.  What about lunch time?  Don't get me started on school lunches!  (I do have to say my district, Chawanakee Unified has made great strides in school lunch quality.)  That's a blog post for a different day.
From early in my career, I have invited parents into my classroom to let them know how we, their students and I, do what we do.  If they have been in class and seen the real issues, concepts, and ideas we're working on and how we do all of that, the parents can be a much more active participant in the learning process.  They can avoid as Schwartz put it in her article, "asking the generic, 'What did you do in school today?'”  Very few parents have taken me up on my offer.  Many laugh when I mention it, but then I explain that I have had parents visit and hang out and engage in our lessons.  It's really happened and the parents love it.  On the other hand, the kids don't really like it...  But that's actually attractive to lots of parents!
However, just imagine how that dead end conversation would go at the dinner table that night!
"What did you do in school today," would become "How did you like that infographic on credit cards you guys worked on during economics today?"
The kid would HAVE to respond and explain what he/she had thought of the lesson and then very easily the conversation could become "real world" as the parents and children discuss the use of credit cards in the real world and how they really work.
We will truly have taken learning outside the classroom!
When parents ask what they can do to help their students, I always ask them to ask their kids to teach the parents what they learned.  As all teachers know, you have to understand it to explain it.  However, most parents don't know what to ask, but if they've been in the classroom and learned how the students and the teacher communicate, the parents can ask the right questions and get much better answers.
My own children are in first and second grade and I have been in both of their classes over the last few years and parent involvement is a normal aspect to the early primary grades.  I love seeing my kids and their peers and their teachers interact.  I can definitely ask them much more pointed and focused questions and I also get a much better feel for the classroom and their learning process.  The problem is that much of that great interaction and connection ceases as our kids and students grow older and the parents stop being an active and knowledgable part of their children's learning experience.
"Bring Your Parent to School Day!" would be just the tip of the iceberg.  As I mentioned above, I'm going to pursue social media as a classroom newsletter.  I know many of my colleagues have used it to great effect.  The opportunities for real, connected, multidirectional communication would be endless.  As Schwartz noted in her article, there are also all sorts of other benefits including, not the least among them, the ability for parents to understand the qualitative aspects to learning and instruction that can not be measured by standardized tests.  Another issue came up the other day when a parent asked me to explain her child's grade.  I was able to explain the grade through the rubrics and evaluation forms we use in my class, but that conversation could have been much more meaningful had I had a more substantial relationship with the parent had she been in my classroom at some point during the school year.  Like I said the possibilities are endless!
In the end, Schwartz mentioned that by letting others into our classroom, we will have to explain what and why we do what we do.  For many of us, that will take a great leap into a vulnerable place we have never been.  However, like I said earlier about the students teaching the parents, in order to explain it, we have to understand it.  We will have to be fully aware of why and how we conduct our classrooms.  If we can reach that level of understanding in our pedagogy, we can't help but be better teachers and our students by extension be better learners.  That can only help, right?
"Bring Your Parent to School Day!" 
What do you think?  Learning is my Business!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Don't Forget to Breathe!

On the mornings when my AP Econ and Government class meets, we (almost always) take time to breathe.  We pledge allegiance and then we breathe for three minutes.  I tell my students to stop what they're doing, close their computers, put their cellphones away, stop eating and just stop and do nothing more than breathe and think.  They can think about whatever they want.  They can focus on their breathing like yoga breathing, they can plan their day, they can go blank and space out, they can close their eyes and relax.  The idea is to get them to understand that they can stop in the middle of their busy days and they can disconnect in the middle of their busy senior years.  They don't have to always go, go, go.  When we stop breathing, they can get back to their hectic schedules and lives, but for three minutes it's OK to stop.
Our breathing is part of a greater scheme to help my high-flying students manage the pressure of their senior year and keep their lives in balance.  On another level, I have my students list their classes from most important to least important with no ties.  They need to make a choice of one over another before they have to make that choice during the high pressure times of mid terms, finals, or AP tests.  The idea is to stop (yes, it's that word again!) and examine what they do and how they do it.  We look at their lists from time to time and we rearrange their priorities depending on how their doing in their respective classes.  The bottom line that I constantly emphasize to my students is that we can't be all things to all people and we can't give 100% to all of our classes.  We need to choose what is most important and then give that level of commitment and effort to what is most important.  We also need to be good with the classes that are less than most important.  Some students can get A's in all their classes, but that doesn't mean that they give 100% to all their classes.  The classes that are most important get the most effort and those that are less important get less effort.
As a teacher, I have to be good with that.  My classes are not the most important classes in all my students's lives and schedules.  The question I ask my students who are not giving their all in my classes is, "are you doing well in the classes that you're giving more effort to?"  If the answer is, yes, then they've done a good job prioritizing and are getting the results they should.  If the answer is, no, then we have a conversation about what is important to the student's overall academic goals and we rearrange his/her prioritizes as needed.
I also have to be good to make sure to take the time out of MY hectic class schedule to make sure this gets done, because if we take some time early, we will save lots of time and angst later when the time gets shorter and the pressure gets higher.
We also work on prioritizing what are their favorite and least favorite classes and getting them to remember to take advantage of what's fun and enjoyable to them.  We also list their extracurricular and family and work activities to see where school fits in with the rest of their lives.  Once again, the idea is to get my students to look at their lives and understand where the different important activities fit among each other and that they get the results they want and know why they get those results.
Finally, this is another attempt to build a strong personal relationship with each student and help him/her learn how to get where he/she wants to go and to build strong life skills as he/she learns the academic concepts in my class.
Don't forget to breathe!  Think about whatever you want, but disconnect and breathe, because you ALWAYS have time!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Path of Least Resistance Rarely Leads to the Remarkable

Once upon a time, a friend of mine gave me a quote, "the path of least resistance rarely leads to the remarkable."  I've unsuccessfully tried to find the genesis of those words, but as it had been cut out of a magazine, I suspect that it may have been copy from an advertisement.  Regardless of their origin, these words have always given me an extra boost when I get rewarded for an accomplishment with more or harder work.  These words have also given me strength when I confronted the frustration and struggle that comes with every significant achievement.
Each time I've cleared another hurdle, it quickly becomes time to do more or harder work.  I see it in academics and athletics all the time.  Every time a kid moves up a grade, they are asked to read and write better and solve harder math problems and contemplate more sophisticated scientific systems and critically analyze  more complex human conditions.  All of this increased rigor and expectations will show once again that the student has grown and advanced another level in his/her abilities.  When a team wins a playoff game, they are asked to play better teams to win the next round and progress to the championship.  That's how teams and athletes can say they've gotten better or become the best or become champions.  However, at the same time, I've also heard some in both worlds bemoan their being "rewarded" by being asked to do more and harder schoolwork or being moved up into competition with tougher opponents.  Isn't this part of the constant learning and improvement process?  Shouldn't we embrace the greater and tougher challenge?
Long before I came across my inspirational words, my dad used to take my brother and I (and eventually my sister) skiing at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe.  About 10-20 years before we skied there, Squaw Valley had hosted the Winter Olympics for the greatest skiers in the world.  We loved to see the torch and Olympic rings every morning we arrived there!  My dad wasn't one to shrink from the challenge.  Every time my brother and I would master a slope or a run, we'd move up to the next hardest run.  We'd fall down and struggle and get frustrated and throw our ski poles, but my dad would wait and coax us down the hill and then we'd go again, each time getting better.  There were times when I'd be hating my dad for "making" us ski the hard runs, but eventually by the time we were 13-14 years old, we were skiing the advanced and expert runs and we really loved the speed, challenge and accomplishment of it all.
My son and daughter played under 8 soccer this fall as I was my school's head varsity football coach.  The contrasts between our levels could not have been starker.  As my football team was playing our games explicitly to win, neither my son's nor daughter's teams won a game between them.  My football boys started the season 0-3 and really hadn't had a chance in any of those games. We then played the eventual section champion and finally stepped up to the challenge and played a competitive game, which ended up as another loss, but turned into a win the following week and we finished the season 3-3 and won our last game.  Whew!
In the balance, we were 3-7, but we kept playing and learned how to play better and began to learn how to win games by maintaining a high effort and level of focus.  We learned to push through the frustration and struggles and get better in spite of the setbacks we experienced.  We would not have improved so much had our games not been played to win.  We needed the extra pressure and the expectations and ironically the losses to spur us to continue to compete to get better to the point where we could compete and win.  We needed to continue to push our way down the path of greater resistance in order to learn what we needed to learn.
This past week, I met with the seniors from our team and had them fill out a survey on how they viewed the season, their coaches, and what they had learned.  After a few months of reflection, they had criticism and good suggestions on how we need to get better as a program, but for the most part, they also realized that they had learned through their struggles and frustrations and had grown and improved as people and teammates.  Through their efforts, they were able to look back and give suggestions to their younger teammates that they never would have given at this time last year.
My son and daughter by contrast were just playing to learn their new sport and how to be on a team.  They kept score, but each kid was guaranteed to play and only sit out for a specific amount of time.  However, they continually got better as they practiced the skills required to play their sport well.  It was only recently that either of them really realized that neither of their teams had won a game.  It wasn't an "oh well" realization, it was more of an astonished realization.  They couldn't believe they'd played that many games and not won one!  At the same time, neither was ashamed nor angry at the losses, but realized that they needed to play better in order to win.  Throughout the season though, they hadn't quit or complained and had continually gotten better.  Through their improvement, they had had lots of fun, but just hadn't won any games.
In fact, just recently, my son asked as we drove to his "spring training" for Little League if they'd win a game and I assured him that he would.  He asked if baseball was different from soccer in terms of winning games.  I told him it wasn't really different, but that they'd win games.  He asked how I knew and I told him I just knew, I'd been here before, and if he kept playing and getting better, he and his teammates would win games and that he'd have fun regardless.
We're back on the path and we're pushing forward and as long as we keep pushing, we'll find ourselves somewhere remarkable, but it won't be easy...