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Break the Script

Many years ago I was coaching baseball for Western Dubuque High School during the summer. We had a great deal of talent, but were severely under performing as a team. We lacked team chemistry, made a number of mistakes, and at the time of this story had 9 wins and 17 losses. I remember this season vividly, as I took the responsibility of the issues on our team. I realized on the way to a weekend double header that I needed to do something completely different with only nine games remaining on the schedule.


We had only nine players (no substitutes) that day and what I did to set the lineup completely broke the script from my typical practice. Rather than placing our players in their regular positions on the field and in the batting order, I wrote numbers 1-9 (all the positions on the baseball field) on small sheets of paper and placed them in my hat. I then called each player to the front of the bus randomly and had them draw a slip of paper from the hat. The first player came up and drew a #2 which is catcher on the field. I remember exactly what he said to me, “Coach, I have never caught in my life and I have no idea how to do this.” My response was, “You will figure it out soon enough and get more comfortable as the game goes on.” We went on to do this for the other remaining positions and had a player who had not pitched before with the majority of other kids playing out of position while batting in unfamiliar places in the lineup.


I share this story because we have the opportunity to mix it up in our classrooms and schools as well. In their latest book, The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath write about scripts or our expectations about stereotypical experiences. All kinds of scripts within our schools and classrooms have been established. How to arrive to the classroom, what a classroom discussion looks like, how morning announcements should be done, and so forth. I am a firm believer in procedures, routines, and smooth operations; however, sometimes we are in need of a change to continually engage students and staff members. If you have something that is not working as well as you like, break the script and mix up the routine. Play a song during your morning announcements and give a prize to the first classroom to call in with the name of the artist. Let students lead instruction while you sit in their seat to participate as a learner. Talk to someone that you normally don't converse with throughout the day and ask them a question to learn something new. There are literally hundreds of ways to break the scripts to create memorable experiences for students and staff members.


You are probably wondering how bad we got beat in those two games. Well, it was exactly the opposite result. We beat this team in both games by more than seven runs and went on to win our remaining nine games of the season to finish with 18 wins and 17 losses. This small change broke the script of how our lineup was typically set. Our kids were surprised and not enthusiastic when they first heard, but they were forced to work together and communicate to make it work. When you take the time to mix it up and break the script, I think you will like the results.

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