• Bill Althaus: School visit is pleasant surprise

  • To be successful in any endeavor, you must have a game plan.

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  • To be successful in any endeavor, you must have a game plan.
    I’ll never forget the meticulous notes former Fort Osage High School football coach Jerry Boyce brought to his practice sessions. He would get up at 5 a.m. and begin the task of outlining every minute of every practice, without wasting a moment of his or his players’ time on the field.
    Whenever I walk into a basketball or football coach’s office, and see the intricate diagrams on a dry-erase board, I know it takes more hours than most of us can imagine to create a successful product on the field or basketball court.
    While game plans are part of successful sports programs, they also lend themselves to success in the classroom.
    I was invited to speak to seventh graders in Amy Parker’s writing class at Nowlin Middle School Wednesday.
    Oftentimes, when I am asked to make a presentation, it’s a one-time visit with a class where we talk about the newspaper business and my day-to-day activities covering high school, collegiate and professional sports.
    But this day was different. All students at Nowlin must take this writing class. At first, I thought it was an elective and that I would have a captive audience that dreamed about being part of a newspaper staff.
    After I discovered it was not an elective class, I noticed small bead of sweat on my upper lip. I was scheduled to speak to five classes, ranging in time from 30 to 45 minutes.
    Visions of spit wads, paper airplanes flying through the air and students sleeping at their desks suddenly began to materialize as my mind tried to grasp what I had volunteered for.
    But those thoughts disappeared when I walked into Parker’s class.
    She had a game plan. And it was off the charts.
    On an overhead projector she reminded each of her students that there would be a special guest visiting with them today.
    I don’t know how special I was, but the reception I received was very special.
    Next to the overhead projection was a list of 20-plus questions that her students had submitted for each of the sessions.
    Each class was special in its own way. The questions were heartfelt and came from a variety of students. And many of the questions were spontaneous, and not part of her well-organized game plan.
    After each class, students wanted to ask some personal questions about the art of writing. Some wanted to share their personal stories or tell me about members of their families who had delved into the written word.
    I’ve appeared at countless elementary, middle and high schools over the years and have never received this type of reception. After the first class left, I noticed that Parker’s classroom was overflowing with enthusiastic newcomers who had excuses to miss their own classes so they could find out about the writing process.
    Page 2 of 2 - I don’t know if Parker’s students learned anything throughout the day, but I certainly did.
    There are still teachers who are as passionate about their profession as I am about mine. If your child is lucky enough to have Amy Parker as a teacher, they are working with a pro who has a game plan – a game plan for life.
    She had a wonderful rapport with her students and it was impossible to tell who was having more fun – the kids or Parker.
    I hope I get an invitation to return next year, and I hope even more that all the students who asked for my email address send me some of their work.
    Every student should have that one teacher who made a memorable contribution to his or her life. For me, it was my former Truman High School journalism teacher Ron Clemons.
    And for several students at Nowlin Middle School, I’m betting it’s Amy Parker.
    I only wish I’d have had such an inspiration when I was a middle school student and didn’t have to wait until high school to seek my inspiration.
    Follow Bill Althaus Twitter: @AlthausEJC

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