Photo by Chung Chow
The kids from the 5-C (an affectionate student-spawned term for the No. 5 and Cambie roads area) are engaged in a lesson. This time, however, the basketball court is the classroom.
For teacher and coach Brian Meier, though, the platform for learning isn’t as important as the methods he employs.
“I try not to simply tell my athletes what to do, but question them as to why they think we should or should not do something,” explains Meier, who is proud to be teaching at Cambie Secondary School, and also coaching the senior boys’ basketball team.
“Learning needs to be something that each athlete or student needs to own if it is going to stick with them. We reach our ultimate success by working together, using the strengths of each individual to create a successful venture.”
Not everyone (on a team) is going to be the leading scorer, but everyone can find a role to contribute, he says, adding the classroom is no different.
“Meshing our talents together is what teamwork is all about,” explains Meier. “Life is no different. When we all work towards a common goal, and use the strengths of all involved, success will follow.”
Meier is excited to be overseeing the school’s Recreation Leadership program which launched 12 years ago. It was the vision of Paula Charlton who is now vice-principal at Hugh McRoberts Secondary.
“I have continued most of what Charlton initiated and have slowly added some ideas of my own,” Meier explains. “As times goes on, the program will slowly evolve and take on the shape of what is to come.”
Currently, the leadership program is a thriving entity both within the school and its surrounding community. The students are required to volunteer a set number of hours within the school and community each term, but also take on active roles in each.
Some key events the leadership students oversee are a 24-hour Wake-A-Thon in which they raise money for various charities; Terry Fox Run; and ACT (Acceptance, Community and Tolerance) Day on Feb. 28. Students also organize an annual conference for incoming Grade 7 students, and athletic tournaments. Some of the Grade 12s have even taken the initiative to collect used iPods to a seniors care facility, create playlists for those with Alzheimers, raised money for food to make care packages for the homeless, and organize free sports programs for youth.
Meier says another way the students try to connect is by working directly with the incoming Grade 8s, setting a positive tone for their high school experience.
“The example set by the Leadership students as active members visible in the school environment is one that sets the tone for the incoming Grade 8s,” Meier says. “The Grade 8s see the Grade 11 and 12 mentors involved, and hopefully are more likely to take a chance and get involved as well. I truly think we will see some incredible success stories coming from this group of students.”
In general, Meier thinks educators need to teach more skills that are transferable to life outside of high school. He says most teachers do a great job of teaching skills, but not always how they apply beyond the classroom. The leadership program, for example, allows students to work in a variety of settings “so they can pursue avenues they have a passion for.”
“I see myself as a mentor and advisor,” Meier says. “I feel that my job is not to tell, but to guide students in a positive direction. Ultimately, I hope that the students acquire a skill set that allows them to feel comfortable taking risks. I also hope that the students take with them a confidence that they can be successful taking charge in a variety of situations, working with a variety of different people.”
Meier says the most satisfying part of being a teacher and coach is seeing the success of students and student athletes.
“There really isn’t a whole lot more rewarding than working with someone who is challenging themselves to be better,” he says. “I emphasize with both my athletes and my students that on the path to success, there will be obstacles. However, we need these moments to re-evaluate what we were doing, and why we are doing it. We need these moments to appreciate success and to give it value. Ultimately, the moments where we are not as successful are the turning point moments where we learn the most. Trust the process.”
Teacher and coach are synonymous in Meier’s mind. As a coach, he is a teacher of the game. He tries not to simply tell his athletes what to do, but question them as why or why not they should do something. Learning, he says, needs to be something each student athlete needs to own if the lessons are going to stick.
“On the basketball court not everyone will be the leading scorer, but all players can find a role to contribute that is invaluable,” Meier says. “The classroom is the same. And life is no different. When we all work together towards a common goal, and use the strengths of all involved, success will follow.”