Saturday, August 30, 2014

Second-Hand Shoes Poem

Second-Hand Shoes
Swen Nater

I bought a pair of brown walking shoes,
At the second hand store today. 
I rushed them home, sat down in my easy chair,
And anxiously put them on, 
With closed eyes and head back thinking away,
Searching for answers and clues.
To what man did they belong?
What does he look like and what else does he wear?
Is his name Ralph or Mike or Don? 
Is he a happy man? Did he take the shoes to happy places?
Or were they present during a sad song,
That dropped him to the floor? 
Why are they scuffed a bit, in places?
Did he not need them anymore?
Did he get a brand new pair with better form?

Does he miss them at all for they feel so comfortable and warm?

The AD as an Instructional Leader

The AD as an Instructional Leader

Would we all agree, the most important hat a school principal wears is the hat of “Instructional Leader?” If the function of a school is to educate young people, and education primarily takes place in the classroom, and the principal is the school leader, should not the principal be actively-engaged in the educational process by visiting classrooms, evaluating teacher performance, and helping them improve their instructional methods through whatever means necessary, including new resources? And shouldn’t the principal do that for all teachers? And shouldn’t all that effort be part of a plan that will improve learning and test scores toward some measurable goal? 

If you don’t agree, please abort now. If you do agree, I’m going to throw something at you that is a huge challenge for schools. I’m going to suggest, as the principal is the instructional leader for classroom teachers, the athletic director is the instructional leader for coaches. I’m going to suggest, the AD should be actively-involved in the improvement of every coach, for every sport. The AD should be out there observing practice sessions, using some sort of evaluation form used to grade the coach in several areas, some of which are: 

What is the ratio of time on task vs standing around?
How long did it take to teach something new and did it stick?
Was error correction quick?
Was practice organized? Was there wasted time?
Did practice start on time? Did it end on time?
Was there a lesson plan? If so, was there a goal and was that goal met? And were the players informed of the goal?
Did the coach change the lesson plan during practice?
Was practice enjoyable for the players? 

Do you agree? Easier said than done isn’t it? It’s difficult enough for a school principal to make the time to be the instructional leader (and I mean BE the instructional leader, not hit a classroom once a week or so). And they do it during the school day. But if the AD is going to do the same, he or she must work late afternoons and even into the evenings because that’s when practices take place. That’s family time. 

Is this too much to ask? Is it too time consuming for an AD to coach every coach? In a small high school, it’s very possible for the principal to observe and coach every teacher, and it’s being done all the time. In larger high schools, that responsibility is shared with a vice-principal. The same can be done for the athletic director. 

We are assuming, the AD was a master teacher before becoming AD. This is not always the case. So how can we expect an athletic director, who knows little about real effective teaching that gets results, to instantly morph in to an expert? There is only one way that works. The principal calls that AD into the office and says, “Your primary job is to evaluate and improve your coaches, particularly in the teaching area in practice session. When you help them become master teachers, the results, like winning, will take care of themselves. Now get out there and do it. If you need anything to make that happen, let me know and I’ll get you the help you need. Come into my office, every Monday morning, and give me a detailed written report on what you have done and the results.”

Necessity is the mother of invention. That AD will make it happen because the expectations are clear, resources are available, and there is monitoring and followup. Yes, the AD has many responsibilities such as budget and scheduling, but the primary one is training coaches how to teach, run very productive practices that result in improved game performance, and here’s my last point, the game is fun for the players. 

Do I need to give you links to remind you of all the coaches in recent history that have made the sport a bummer for the players? One was throwing basketballs at his players and kicking them. We’ve got coaches getting in players’ faces, belittling them during practices and games. Sports should be fun and the AD needs to make sure the coaches are not only becoming skilled master teachers, but the players are having a good time and want to come back the next day. 


Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Definition of Success

From “You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned”

The definition of success:

When the great John Wooden (UCLA basketball coach) first coached, he also taught a full load of high school English. During his first year he came to the realization, all the parents expected their children to get an A in his class. They  believed their children were capable of obtaining the highest grade. 

But Wooden knew, God in his infinite wisdom did not make all of us the same and while some of his student were rather gifted in English, others struggled greatly to spell and write. For some, a C grade would have been a great accomplishment. He continually tried to get across to those students, doing one’s best is success no matter what the outcome, but he saw it didn’t really register. So he came up with a definition for success to help them. 

His definition was influenced by two people—his father and a Major League Umpire. His father had always told his children, “Never try to be better than someone else but never cease trying to become the best you can be.” That had a great impact on the young John Wooden. When he was on his own he ran across a poem by George Moriarty, “The Road Ahead and the Road Behind,” which said in part, 

For who can ask more of a man,
Than giving all within his span.
Giving all, it seems to me,
Is not so far from victory.

He then penned his definition of success:

‘Success is the peace of mind, which is a direct result of the self-satisfaction in knowing, you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.’

It is human nature to compare oneself to another person. When at UCLA, I played behind the great Bill Walton and so in practice every day, I played against him. For two years, that was frustrating. He was such a good defensive player, I could hardly get a good shot. After practice, I often hung my head is depression, knowing I would never be able to compete against Bill. So I know exactly how some of Coach Wooden’s English students felt when writing a simple paragraph was a daunting struggle while the person next to them made it look so easy. 

But John Wooden, seeing my despair, talked to me one day in his office and told me exactly what he told his high school English students. He told me, while I may never be as great as Bill, I had talents of my own. I was very strong and extremely skilled at rebounding (getting the ball when a someone missed a shot). He encouraged me to look at my own talents and work at becoming the best Swen Nater there is. in parting, he gave me a quote that helped me,

“I am me. I am the best me there is. I will always be a second-best somebody else.”

So, I stopped trying to become a second-best Bill Walton and focused on improving myself. I liked the results. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to Memorize Almost Anything: Spelling Words

How to Memorize Anything, Spelling Words

The system works very well for spelling words. 
First, the teacher and students analyze the word to see how it’s dressed. It may have a double consonant or even two. It may have a strange spelling for a sound. For example, “Lieutenant.” has a unique spelling for the sound /oo/, “ieu.”  I employed a trick for this word by imagining a band of ten ants with a Lieutenant. The band was supposed to get up early and build a tunnel but they slept in. When the Lieutenant showed up and asked one of them why they were only half way done, I (because I like the ants) tell them, “Lie You Ten Ants.” 

In the classroom, the procedure is the same as mentioned in the previous posting or tweet. Let me review for those who did not read that one.
First step is to have students look at the word carefully and even find a trick if you need to. Then the word is taken away and they are told, “In thirty seconds, I will ask you  to spell the word again.” 
Thirty seconds later the teacher says, “Spell the word.” Every student writes it on a paper. Teacher checks to see if anyone needs help and provides. it Then students are told, “In one minute, I will ask you again.” The class is distracted with something else and, in one minute, teacher asks again.
The next time it’s five minutes, then ten, then thirty , then one hour and then end of the class day. 

To learn a spelling word yourself, be creative as to how you will give yourself the periodic notifications to spell the new word. I work behind a computer all day so I have entered meeting requests in my calendar so I get pop ups that say, “Spell the word.” It works. 

Why does this work? When you resurface something that’s sinking out of recall, every time you bring it back up, it stays up a little longer. That’s the best way I can explain it. It also works because, when you tell someone, “In one minute……,” they are going to think about that and keep, whatever is to be memorized, in the front of their mind. 

The value if the exercise goes beyond learning a spelling word, which they will. You are teaching students how to memorize (or how to fish so to speak). Soon, they will create their own tricks and use the system. Or, they may create another system that works for them. 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to Memorize Almost Anything in One Day

If you follow this formula (or teach others), you will be able to memorize almost anything. This is simple and, when you read it, it will make perfect sense. I'm going to give you an example first.
Early in the morning, while my wife was still asleep, I was reading about canning and the "Mason Jar" was mentioned. Interested why it was called that, I googled the origin. It was invented and patented by John Landis Mason in 1858.  I went to another webpage but while there I realized I didn't remember Mason's first and last name. I went back to the site and saw his name.
My wife is always interested in the origin of things so I told myself to remember the man's name so I could tell here when she woke up. But I was afraid I would forget it again. Then I remembered a memory trick I learned years ago. Here's the trick in steps.
Turn away  from the name and say it.
Thirty Seconds Later:Say it again
One Minute: Again
Five Minutes: Again
Thirty Minutes: Again
One Hour: Again
Next Day: Again
It works for anything as long as it's not too complicated.
Application for School:
Another simple thing to remember is a multiplication problem some students may be having  difficulty with like 6 X 8 = 48.
We put it on the board and tell students, "Look at it because I'm going to erase it and ask you in thirty seconds."
We distract them for thirty seconds and ask again. We tell them we will ask again in one minute.
After that, you start teaching something else but you do tell the students you will ask in five minutes. You get the idea. It's fun and works.
And here is one more tool that will drill it in. Give students a paper that has the problem on it. They are to give it to their parents and have them the ask them. Parents are to sign the paper and students bring them back to school the next day.

More complex things to memorize. These will have to be taught in more detail first before applying this memory system
Nursery Rhymes
Pledge of Allegiance.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rebounding in Life

When in the ABA and NBA, I scored 12.5 points a game but my real strength was rebounding. For those who don't know what rebounding is, it's simple. When a shot is taken and it misses, that's called a "rebound." When it misses, somebody grabs it. That person is the rebounder. I absolutely loved rebounding. I was a rebounder and I have records to prove it. I won't bore you with that.

The person who takes a shot and misses is sad because he (could be she) didn't get the two or three points. People who shoot a lot like points because, when you get a lot of points, you get your picture in the next morning's paper. But the rebounder (his teammate) is happy when he sees a ball about to clank off the rim. He's happy because now he gets a chance to score by grabbing the rebound and putting the ball in the basket. While the shooter stands there, with a long face because he didn't get his points, the rebounder is happy because he helped his team. I can say this because it's been 40 years since I played; it's also kinda cool to get the points and wink at the shooter who didn't get them.

Keith Erickson, member of 1964 UCLA championship team, who played with two ball-hogs Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich, told me he once kindly asked Gail to pass him the ball once in a while. Gail told him, "If you want the ball, go rebound." There you go.

OK. This is getting too long. I have lots of stories but I'll get to the point.

We can learn about rebounding in life, by analyzing rebounding on the basketball court. We can learn how to make good out of bad in our daily lives, just like the rebound in basketball is turning something seemingly bad (the missed shot) into something good (a score). Here's how.

There are three steps to basketball rebounding:
One: Assume Every Shot is Missed
Two: Get in Position for the Rebound
Three: Go Get the Ball

Great rebounders know this formula and that's why they are great rebounders.  Those who stand there and assume the ball is going in, are in a dream world. The ball will go in less than half the time. Yet they dream on. If you don't get position, when the shot is taken, you'll also be away from where the ball will go. When you don't go after the rebound competitively, you'll lose the race. Somebody else will get it.

There are three steps to rebounding in life:
One: Assume Things Are  Not Always Going to Go Right (The Miss)
Two: Get Prepared for Possible  Change (Getting Position)
Three: Go After the New Opportunity (Going After It)

In basketball, the missed shot is nothing more than change. We thought the ball was going in but it did not.  That's change. In life, those who anticipate change (the rebounders) are already one step toward being prepared. Those who make plans for change (i.e., Learning another skill incase you loose your job) are ready. And, with every closed door another one opens. The Rebounder in Life sees the open door and goes through it.

Those of you who read my tweet, "My Story," know that I know change. I'm a rebounder and that's why I was able to move on, even when things looked the worst.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin

Keep Rebounding, Friends,

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Teachers September Prayer

The Teacher’s September Prayer
Swen Nater


Dear sovereign loving God, I beg Thee, please;

September sends me to my humble knees.

I love my students and I gravely plead,

That this year, Thou wouldst meet their every need.


I pray that in the homes where they belong,

They get the nourishment to make them strong,

And proper garments made from woven wool,

So they can come in warmth and bellies full.


Oh gracious, kind, and caring God above,

Make every home a place of living love.

And may that love cause them to weigh their worth,

And know they have a right to be on earth.


And then, my God, I beg Thee and beseech,

Empow’r me with the proper skill to teach.

And let them learn success is not a grade;

It’s in the try and if the price was paid.


And when that joyous June bell finally rings,

I pray, I woke their wills to spread their wings,

And spawned a spark to know, inside each heart,

So what they learned from me was just the start.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, lived a near-perfect example in front of me for three years. Years later, he gave me this poem. Now it all makes sense.

No written word, no spoken plea,
Can teach our youth what they should be,
Not all the books on all the shelves;
it's what the teachers are themselves.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Game of Life

Swen Nater


The Little League game was about to begin,

On a perfectly, wonderful day.

One team sprinted out

With a spirited shout,

For the boys were excited to play.  


As their coach saw the field, with his players in place,

A vision took over his sight.

Each Little League lad

Grew the age of a dad,

Complete with the beard and the height.


His pitcher, an artist, composed to create

On a canvas awaiting and bare.

His stroke on the ball

Made it spin and then fall

When it curved and it carved through the air. 


His catcher, a general, positioned in place,

Was leading the rest of the pack.

On his signal and sign,

They joined to combine,

With a quick and successful attack.


His shortstop, a surgeon, whose quickness and skill,

When it seemed as though death cast its fate,

On the double, he caught,

What the grave almost got,

And threw lifelessness out at the plate. 


His outfield consisted of no lesser men:

Three statesmen with not one reproach.

On third was a preacher,

And on second, a teacher,

On first was a Little League coach. 


As the vision grew fainter, the coach stopped and thought.

The epiphany cut like a knife.

Baseball was more

Than a game and a score;

It was practice for the game of life.   

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Story

My name is Swen Nater. I am known for being a UCLA, ABA, and NBA basketball player in the 70s and 80s.

I was born in The Netherlands in 1950. My parents divorced when I was three. My stepfather, mother, and little brother left for the US, leaving my sister and I in Holland, promising to bring us over in a couple of years. Six years went by where we lived in several foster homes and finally ended up in a home for orphans. We received letters from my mother and rarely saw our father.

In September 1959, we flew to the US through a miracle. Friends of my parents in Arizona asked the television show, "It Could Be You" (like This is Your Life), to bring us over and surprise our parents. They agreed and on a Hollywood stage, on national TV, our parents, who thought they were there because they got free tickets, were brought on stage. The curtain opened and they saw a miniature windmill in which my sister and I were hiding. On the cue, we leaped out and embraced our parents.

But my stepfather was angry because his plan was for us to never come to the US. So, for the next ten years, from age 9-19, he made life miserable for me. He beat me on the lower back regularly to where there were whelps, made me stand in the bathroom for hours with my hands up (the pain), didn't allow me to make friends, made me come home after school and get in my room, didn't allow anything but cold showers (and he would check because he took the lock off the bathroom door), and even though four of my molars were decayed to the root, didn't send me to a dentist. Some nights I just couldn't fall asleep.

I tried out for my high school basketball team but was cut. He would not have allowed me to play anyway. At Cypress Junior College, now 18, I tried out for the team and made it because I was six feet nine inches. I was not very good at all. The assistant coach had to sweet talk my stepfather into letting me on the team. It worked. At the end of the year I started to improve and got my chance. I was put in the game and I excelled. The next game, last of the season, I scored 20 points.

That summer, the assistant coach sweet talked my stepfather into letting him take me to LA to play in the Ghettos. We went almost every Saturday. At first, I got my butt kicked but soon they were asking me to be on their teams. I improve rapidly.

During pre-season the next year, my stepfather told to quit basketball and concentrate on my studies. The next mooring, I packed up extra clothes, left home, and moved in with a teammate and his family.

I was All-America that year, MVP of my team, and scored 26 points per game and pulled down over 16 rebounds per game, best in the nation. I was recruited by many top schools and chose UCLA where I played for John Wooden. However, I sat the bench for two years, behind the great Bill Walton.

I had two opportunities to prove I could play. The first was after my junior year at the Olympic trials. Coach Wooden asked the committee to let me play since Walton did not accept. As an unknown, I led the camp in scoring. The second was after I graduated at the Pizza Hut All Star game in Las Vegas. Again, Coach Wooden got me in because Bill didn't want to participate. I was MVP of the game which resulted in me being the 16th player picked int the first round of the NBA draft.

I chose the ABA however and was Rookie of the Year and second team All Star. I also led the league in field goal percentage. The second year I was also All Star and led the ABA in rebounds.

When the ABA merged with the NBA, I went to the Milwaukee Bucks where I shattered Kareem Abdul Jabbar's singe game rebound record (I had 33) and set an NBA record for defensive rebounds in a half (18) which still stands. I also became a member of the all-time 30/30 club, thirty or more points and thirty or more rebounds in the same game. There are only six members.

I was traded to the Buffalo Braves which moved to San Diego to become the Clippers. There I led the NBA in rebounds and set a franchise record for double doubles (points and rebounds) in a season.

I was traded to the Lakers where we played in the NBA finals against the Celtics. My last year, I went to Italy and played. It was a great experience.

When retired, I helped start an athletic program at San Diego Christian College. I was head coach and we won a national championship.

I went to work for Costco where I am now employed. I have written five books, mostly to do with teaching, which is my passion. You see, I was coached by John Wooden, the greatest teacher I have personally witnessed. Together with Ron Gallimore, I wrote You Haven't Taught Until They Have Learned, a study of his teaching methods.

I have recovered from what my stepfather did to me. My passion is to help children learn by helping teachers become great, like John Wooden.


PS please excuse typos. I just wanted to write this from the heart without going back to edit.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Five Things I Learned About Children by Taking My Grandson to Disneyland

Last week, we flew from Seattle to Long Beach to take my grandson to Disneyland. He had never been on an airplane before and this was his first trip to Disneyland. Here are five things I learned about children through the experience.

One: Children Need Their Curiosity Satisfied, not Quenched.

Children are naturally curious and the only way for them to satisfy that curiosity is to ask questions. At the Seattle airport and on the plane, some of his questions (that he asked many times) were: “Are we getting on that plane?” “Are we going way up in the sky?” “Are we going to Disneyland?” “Are we taking off?” “Are we up in the air yet?” “What is that mountain down there?” “Are we landing?” “Did we land?” “Where are we going now?” And you can imagine all the questions he had when we were renting a car, checking into the hotel, driving to Disneyland, taking the Disney bus to the park, and when we were at Disneyland.

We answered all of his questions, every time, not matter how many times he asked the same one. Sometimes, we stopped, picked him up or dropped down to his level, to explain things in detail. Had I asked him to not ask the same question twice or ignored him, he would have eventually stopped the questions and learning would also have ceased.  

Two: Children Want to Know What is Coming Up.

When we landed in Long Beach, he wanted to know exactly what was going to happen. We told him, we were going to get a car, then drive it to the hotel, and then go to In and Out Burger (the best burger in the world, and where he ate a whole burger for the first time). Of course, he wanted to know if we were going to Disneyland after that. We told him, we would go tomorrow, when we woke up. At least ten times, he asked us to give him the schedule again and we did. That made a big difference for him.

Three: Children Want to Understand the Reasons for Rules.

Disneyland has many rules. Some of them are: Wait your turn, keep your hands inside the boat at Pirates and Small World, stay behind the chains, and don’t stand on the walls. The great thing is; all the rules have very good reasons, such as consideration for others and especially safety.  The number of times we had to remind him of the rules are too many to count, but each time, when we gave him the reason for the rule, he was OK with it.

Four: Children Need Balance Between Free Choice and Following a Schedule.

We had a two day pass. The first half of the first day, we determined the schedule because we knew what attractions and rides to visit. My grandson quickly picked out his favorites (Buz Lightyear, Pirates, Lightning McQueen racecars, Splash Mountain, and he let us know he wanted to do those things more than once. We did Buz Lightyear four times and Pirates two times. Splash Mountain and Lightning McQeeen’s lines were too long, which leads me to another very important point: Explain when things change. When arriving at Splash Mountain for a second ride, the line was over an hour long. We explained it to him, he was fine with it, and asked if he could go on Buz Lightyear again.

Five: Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep.

When he asked if he could go on Splash Mountain again, we told him, “We will go there and see if we can get on.” Had we promised him he could go on, and backed out, something terrible would have happened; he would have been disappointed in us. Disappointments like that damage relationships because they are built on trust.