By Sue Nelle DeHart

I was presenting in North Central Texas, and a man came up to me at the break and said, “I heard you about eight years ago in Huntsville, Texas.”

I said, “I am so sorry. That was the first time I had ever presented for Dr. Payne.”

He replied, “No, I drove 80 miles to hear you present her information again and share this story with you. At the time I was a coach in the Huntsville area, and had to come to the in-service. I was not a happy camper. In fact, I worked hard not to get anything out of the day.

“Later that year, I had a player who came every morning religiously to work out at the field house. One night after practice I noticed him waiting at the front door. I said in passing, ‘Is someone picking you up?’ He said that they were not. He was just waiting until the rain let up and he would walk home. I went about my business, and when I went to lock up he was still there. I said to him, ‘I need to lock up the field house, but I’ll be glad to give you a ride home.’

“He said, ‘That’s OK. I’ll just wait outside until the rain lets up.’

“I said, ‘That’s silly; just get in my truck and I’ll give you a lift home.’

“It ended up that he lived out in the country. When we drove into the driveway, it was so dark I shined the lights of my truck up on the porch of the house. When he got out of the car, I never saw him cross the beams of the headlights. So, I got out to see if he had fallen or something. The house was completely dark, so I went around to the back of the house. I noticed a little light coming from the barn out back. He was living in the abandoned barn, and was coming to the field house each morning to shower and shave to get ready for school.

“As I was driving home, I said to myself, ‘What was that woman trying to say about the Ruby Payne junk?’ The only thing I could remember you saying was something about ‘home visits.’ I decided on the way home that I would visit each of my players that year. It changed my life as an educator. It wasn’t that I lowered my expectations for my players … it was just that I changed the way I worked with them. Now I am an athletic director of a large school district, and when I hire new coaches, I required that they make home visits to all their players. They all tell me that they have never been required to do that in any other district, so I give them an out. I say, ‘If after three visits you don’t want to do it, I’ll let you off.’ I have not had any coaches come to me and say it was not worth it. In fact, after the first visit, they usually come and say it made such a difference that they would never be the same educator again.”

I thought what an analogy that is to us as classroom teachers. It’s not that we lower our expectations or let these students off. No, we still hold them to the same high standards. We get to know them and form a relationship of mutual respect. It’s just that we change the way we work with them so they can reach our standards.