12 August 2011

When a teacher cares too much

When I started this blog, I called the Blaze of Competence. I thought it was a funny play on "going out in a blaze of glory". I knew I was in my last year at my school and that I was leaving. I just wanted to go out in a blaze of competence. I wanted to have a great year in my last year. There was also the possibility that I would get fired for something that I wrote. All in all, it seemed like a good, witty title for a blog that I thought I would stop writing by Thanksgiving.

Today, a former coworker was dismissed (as head football coach) from my former school. I don't know all the details; in fact I only know the details in this news story. I feel like I need to say something about it.

Since this is my blog, I get to. Here goes:

I've never been an athletic coach at the high school level, but I know that it is a job where you get to make relationships with kids, mentor them in an area they often care about more than academics, and reach more at-risk kids than you often do in the classroom. I know that, even if you win championships, there's very little monetary reward. I know that you always are starting fresh. I know that (in season) coaches spend more time at school than anybody except the janitorial staff.

I know that coaches take more abuse from parents than they ever should. I know that parents and players often blame their own shortcomings on coaches. I know that they obsess over even the smallest things. I know that they fund-raise, fund-raise, and then sell suckers during passing period to get their teams the best equipment. 

I know that coaches care. They have to care more than a healthy amount to spend as much time as they do on a job that is a stipend position. They have to care too much to put up with the parents, the fans, and the general non-sense that surrounds them.

I also know Dean Huffman. If you didn't read that article, go back and read it. You can hear Coach Huffman's passion in his quotes to the newspaper. 

I don't know what predicated Dean's dismissal from coaching, so I'm speaking only on what I know of the man I worked with for the last four years. I'm not putting on my rose-colored glasses and whitewashing his record, but I do want to defend him.

Dean is a passionate man. Sometimes his emotions get the best of him. I have no doubt that he has said some mean things to kids. I have no doubt that he has cursed and yelled and called them out as individuals. I don't doubt that he made everyone run for something that one person did. I'm positive that players quit the team because of things he said to them.  I'm sure he's crossed the line at some point. But I'm also sure that he never did it out of hatred, or in-grown mean-ness. He did it because he wanted to get the best out of his players. Yeah, he wanted to win (some will undoubtedly say he wanted to win too much), but he really wanted his players to be the best they could be. 

Now, he was angry at times. He yelled. That's what the best coaches do. They don't do it because they want to belittle their players, they do it because they know it works as a motivational tool. You might not like it, but anybody with even a working knowledge of The Prince will tell you that it's better to be feared than loved. Every year when I talked about that book, his name came up. He was feared. The flip side of that is that he pushed kids to places they didn't know they could go. Hands down, kids would say that they were afraid, but that that fear helped them to do things they wouldn't have done otherwise.

Over the next few days, stories about Dean Huffman will undoubtedly fly around the Internets. 16, 17 and 18 year-olds will fill facebook, twitter and the comments sections of news stories with tales of his transgressions. Many of the stories will even be true. I'm not here to call Coach an angel. I am here to tell the other side of that story. 

Here're some stories that you probably won't hear:

1. When VRHS had only freshmen and sophomores, he led a fundraiser in which the 9th graders battled the 10th graders in shovelling cow turds from stalls at the fairgrounds. It was the first trophy ever in the trophy case. 

2. He once competed against me in a dance contest at a pep assembly. He won when he took off his shirt to reveal a bikini top. I'm nuts and do stupid things for spirit, but that's really impressive.

3. He volunteered to chapperone every dance we ever hosted at Vista.

4. He calls everyone coach. It's endearing.

5. The first year we were open, zero football players were ever academically inelligible. They have a study table right after school, and the entire team runs if one kid has a D or F. He holds students accountable. 

6. He understood that a new school needed to have something to rally around. His team was that thing. 

7. I never had a discipline problem with a football player if I told him about it.

Listen, he may have done something unforgivable. Then again, this may just be a power-grab by a new administration. (I actually doubt both of those things). I know there are people who read this blog who don't like Dean or the way he did things. That's fine. You have your reasons, I have mine for feeling exactly the opposite.

I just hate that this guy, who gave his life, love, and passion to this school for 4 years can be dismissed because "they want to go in a different direction". They don't want to go in a different direction. He undoubtedly yelled at some kid who's parents then complained enough to get him removed. I know that the yelling was because he cared. He knew the kid could do better. And so he's lost his favorite part of his job.  He deserves more than that. I know people will point out that Dean isn't going to win teacher-of-the-year awards, but there are kids out there who like him as a teacher, and I never walked by his room and saw him watching film during class, unlike almost every other football coach I've worked with. He did that outside of class.

Moreover, it makes me angry that if the tables were reversed, and the kid had sworn at coach, and been thrown off of the team, the administrators would have bent over backwards to try and find a way to let the kid back on the team. They would have tried to find a compromise so that the kid could have a second chance. Maybe Dean's had his second chances, but this reeks of a double standard between teachers and students and discipline. However, that's a post for another day.

I like Dean Huffman, and I know that this is breaking his heart. I hope that there can be some resolution where he can get back on the sidelines. Kids deserve someone dedicated to them to be their coach, and whatever else he was, Dean Huffman is dedicated to his teams. 

It just looks like that dedication came with too much passion.

1 comment:

  1. I saw first hand for 6years what Dean Huffman did for and meant to his players and students. The expression tough love represents him perfectly. Yes he was tough on his players and students but it was because he wanted to see them succeed, which is exactly what they did! How can you punish someone for success? With all the other problems the district is facing a little tough love and passion should be welcomed and not "dismissed".