What happens when you give a kid a chance!

Always give a kid a chance!
Jason McElwain has been in the news for his contribution to his team's win on the basketball court in February. Jason rang six three point shots in the final home game of the season. (He would have had one more but his foot was on the line.) This would be a boone for any senior, but for Jason it was more. You see, Jason was the 5'6″ autistic team manager of the team and usually sat on the sidelines in his black tie and white shirt.

His coach was Jim Johnson.

“Coach Jim Johnson was impressed with his dedication, and thought about suiting up McElwain for the home finale.”

“It was as touching as any moment I have ever had in sports,” Johnson told the Daily Messenger of Canandaigua.

His Mom said ,

“This was his Berlin Wall tumbling to the ground,” Debbie McElwain, Jason's mom says. “For the first time in his life he got an opportunity to be in the spotlight, and it couldn't have been brighter.”

(See the video )

The story didn't end there. Jason met President Bush today. The Associated Press article says,

“McElwain, who because of his autism, didn't begin talking until he was five and still lacks some social skills. Despite suffering from the little understood developmental disorder, he has served as all-around motivator for the Greece Athena High School basketball team, in Greece, N.Y., a Rochester suburb.”

How does this apply to education?
Jason is being hailed as a hero.

My hero is Coach Jim Johnson.

Jason had a spark inside himself, a love of the game, and a willingness to serve and do for others. Johnson had the unselfish humility that put a child ahead of his own ego.
I don't know much about Coach Johnson, but I know that I admire him. Any man who would put a kid in the spotlight though he did not know what would happen, deserves my admiration. Any man who would encourage a kid like that needs to be emulated. I am excited for Jason. I want to know more about Coach Johnson!

As I read the articles throughout the Internet, I am almost in tears. This moment has everything good in teaching wrapped up into a moment caught on tape. This is why I do what I do! For those moments!

Jason and his parents have twenty five movie offers. I think we'll be hearing more about him.
The defining moments in the classroom don't get replayed on the news and don't get meetings with the President, but they are just as profound and just as important. Work and persist for those moments. The harder you fight to get to that moment, the more the moment means when it arrives. Remember Jason!
You never know what will happen when you give a kid a chance!

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Karyn Romeis March 15, 2006 - 10:21 am

There are only two of us in the office at the moment, and the video clip has effectively ruined our eye make-up. What an uplifting story! “For what you do to the least of these…”

Guy March 15, 2006 - 9:24 pm

Yes, this is a superficially uplifting story, and I’ve shown it to pupils at school and got a good reaction. For me the key to it is in the reaction of Jason’s peers. But… some nagging questions remain. Why wasn’t the young man’s talent recognised earlier? He made the most of a charitable gesture, but (and I’ve played basketball at representative level and know what I’m talking about) he clearly has talent which has been overlooked. Why? I think too often we see the label – in this case autism – and ignore the person. What responsibility does Coach Johnson have for overlooking Jason all these years?

Vicki A. Davis March 16, 2006 - 12:48 am

Well, I would say that this is more than a superficially uplifting story. I think one reason folks are unwilling to attempt anything great is that others want to Monday morning quarterback everything.

I think the simple fact it was the last season of the game and he didn’t play until then serves as more of a way up call to both Coach Johnson and the rest of us that we are seeing the label and ignoring the person.

Too many stones are cast in education and not enough kudos. We cannot go to the past and rectify it. We cannot take back the many years.

We also do not know the circumstances and we haven’t walked in Coach Johnson’s shoes. We can learn and go forward but going back does nothing but demoralize and hurt.

We examine the past so that we will learn for the future. It is not healthy to heap guilt for the past. One reason I love the Dale Carnegie method of working with people is that he says to be lavish in your praise. People work harder for praise than they do to avoid pain!

Guy, you and I both agree on this “I think too often we see the label– in this case autism – and ignore the person.” Where we disagree is on condemning Coach Johnson.

Thank you for the comment.

I also want to note that I’ve shown the video to my classes. We work as officials in the Special Olympics each year. This is such a great lesson for them.

It would have been great if Jason played all season but I would wonder if he’s helped autism more by the simple fact of how we missed out on his excellence because he didn’t get put in sooner!

Thanks for your comment, Karyn, you and I seem to be in synch, I cried too!

Guy March 16, 2006 - 2:56 pm

Of course you’re right, Vicki, and I’m sorry if my post sounded confrontational or condemnatory. I don’t know Coach Johnson, and from the brief interview on the clip he seems like a thoroughly decent person. And like I said, the crowd’s reaction was heartwarming. But it’s still not alright – it doesn’t solve the problem or excuse what’s happened. And too often (and this is absolutely *not* a comment on your post) our appreciation can be self-congratulatory and condescending, along the lines of, “Let’s give ourselves a pat on the back for helping the poor black folks by abolishing slavery!” We can be moved by Jason’s story – just let’s not be uncritical about the reasons why it is a story.

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