This is an installment of the Stories Teachers Share podcast. Listen above or on iTunes to hear how the story unfolds.
Classroom teachers feel a lot of top down pressure to help their students achieve academically. Most understand that in order to do that they must have strong relationships with students, but the realities of some schools and schedules can make it very difficult for teachers to get to know students as much as they would like. That's why some of the most influential teachers come into kids lives after school, during sports practice, band or robotics club. Sometimes it's in these less formal situations when the lessons of a great teacher can really take hold.
No one knows that better than Jim Clark, a veteran science teacher who also coached high school basketball for part of his career. Clark isn't surprised many of his former players stay in touch with him -- he still talks to his old high school coach too. "I think if you talk to most coaches they’ll say they stay in touch with a bunch of their guys," Clark said. "It's kind of unfortunate that coaching is different from the classroom. Sometimes I think it should be more of the same. When you push kids outside their comfort zone and they realize that it's made them better, kids appreciate that."
Marcus Williams is one former player of Clark's who is still in touch. Over the years their friendship has only deepened, and Clark has been a supportive presence for Williams as he navigated the incredibly difficult process of getting into and through medical school. From the outside, their loyalty to one another seems special, but Clark says it's just part of being a coach.
"I think most coaches, who've coached for awhile, you have those relationships," Clark said. Although he doesn't coach anymore, Clark is trying to bring some of the motivational skills he learned on the court to his science classroom. And Marcus Williams is always a featured character.