Building Connections to Legends

Charles "Buck" Offutt spent over 50 years
teaching and coaching at DeMatha. 
While he was nationally recognized as a great coach, I witnessed that Morgan Wootten also incorporated many of the most effective teaching and learning strategies in his classroom each day. Even if some of those lessons weren't as readily apparent as the reason for a basketball player to be using a tennis racket in practice. (see Part 1 in this Wootten series).

One of my first days in Morgan Wootten's World History class as a freshman, Dr. Charles “Buck” Offutt came into our classroom and “interrupted” us to have a discussion with Wootten. Offutt was already a veteran at that time, having been at DeMatha for over 20 years (he retired at 52 years) while teaching English and coaching the football linemen. Our class was drawn into their conversation (later to realize that this was on purpose) and at one point Offutt pointed me out.

“Krawczewicz?” he said as he eyed me in the back of the room.
Me? I thought. Then I started looking around me like there were several other Krawczewicz’s in that class. But there was no escape.
Me: “Yes?”
Offutt: “I know someone who wants to box you.”
Really? I was 5’2” at the time and just over 100 pounds. I’m not feeling like I’m going to win many boxing matches. So I’m thinking to myself, First week of school and I’m already going to beat up AND then get kicked out. What the heck did I do?
I managed to answer him: “Who?”
Offutt: “Chambers”
Me (thinking): Chambers? Chambers? Chambers? “Sorry, I don’t know him.”
Offutt: “Chambers Funeral Home. Down the street.”

I was so relieved that it was a joke and I wasn’t going to get pummeled and I hadn’t wet myself that I managed to laugh. But, as a result of that, in a small way I felt a little connected to a couple of legends, even as a freshman.

Wootten and Offutt showed a couple of important things about teaching, even in that informal conversation and interaction.  First, they were building teacher-student relationships and Hattie tells us that the benefits of positive teacher-student relationships are “persistent and profound.” There are benefits when a student finds a connection with a teacher but the benefits are even greater when a teacher finds a connection with a student. Those of us who are alums of DeMatha and teaching here can relate to that very well. Second, they were modeling collegiality for us by showing us how colleagues playfully interact with one another and their students. In a way, it was also modeling the way we were expected to treat each other as classmates and maybe at some point, friends.

Next up: How Wootten’s daily, low-stakes quizzes used “21st century learning” way back in the 20th century.


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