Why all teachers should play hockey...

Are you a teacher reading this? Well you should be playing hockey. Did you know that? Ok, maybe not hockey... but maybe something else that you know practically nothing about! For me, it was hockey. And I wanted to share why I think that hockey is making me a better teacher in the classroom.

Once I became an 'adult,' I got very comfortable. I married my high school sweetheart, I've been living in apartments for the past 7+ years, I've taught in one school, my only school, for the past 3 years (just got the news that I'm renewed for next year too) in the same classroom, with the same grade, with the same teammates (mostly). I ate the same meals night after night, watched the same shows over and over and so on. Do you see a trend? I found things that I was comfortable with and I was content. But I soon realized, I wasn't growing much anymore. Now, I haven't grown in height since the 7th grade, so I'm not talking about that kind of growth. I'm talking about those uncomfortable moments that push us and make us discover more about ourselves. Enter hockey.

My teammate, mentor, and friend just loves to try new things, especially around exercising. She wanted to join this league, and so I thought, "Oh, why not?" It's been a very humbling experience so far- and one that I've been able to find a lot of connections back to the classroom and why "best teacher practices" really are, the best.

We joined JMS or Just My Speed so we can learn the game at our own pace!
Best Teacher Practices Realized Through Hockey

The Power of a Safe, Classroom Environment
We all know how important classroom environment is. I like to think I create a safe space for students to grow and take risks. But I didn't truly realize the importance until I was doing something brand spanking new. That first night I showed up for my first hockey game, all I wanted was to feel welcomed and supported as I tried hockey for the first time. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, "I'VE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE... PLEASE DON'T JUDGE ME!" and... I kinda did say that. I wanted people to know this was new for me so they wouldn't judge me, make fun of me, etc. And it made me think of my students when I ask them to try something new. It can be intimidating! It wasn't until I was in this environment myself that I realized how you can really thrive if you feel safe to take risks and knowing that you'll be supported. I'm grateful for Coach Rob and the people in my league (so far) that have allowed me to learn at my own pace. 

The Power of Specific Feedback
Speaking of Coach Rob, I stated from the get-go that I knew nothing... I didn't know what off sides were, positions, how to stop, you name it! And he took me under his little wing and looked out for me. He would give me little tips that I could apply right away, even if it meant pausing the whole game to do so. And on Sunday, after my first shift in the game, he came over to the bench and told me that was my best shift yet and stated that I hustled up and down quickly and had good placement depending on the puck's placement. What did it make me want to do? KEEP DOING THAT! I knew what I was doing right thanks to his feedback, so it helped remind me what to do. And I thought, yes! We are always told to give our students specific, immediate feedback. Again, I know it's best practice, but until you are on the other side of giving it, you realize how much of an impact it makes in terms of confidence and performance. It took Rob a little extra time to skate over to our bench and share that, but it was really helpful for me and I appreciated it, so I want to do the same for my students.

The Power of Reinforcing and Encouraging Language
I remember getting off the ice on one of my shifts and skating over to the door (I can't hop the side yet). As I stepped in and sat on the bench with the other people on my team (many who I didn't even know their names... and still don't... we've only played 2 games and not everyone puts their name on their helmet) and they said, "Nice job out there, Kelli." I looked around and thought, "They must be talking to someone else... I don't know what I'm doing out there." They continued to do that as I skated by the bench going for a puck- I could hear them say, "You got this, Kelli, go for it!" Knowing my teammates, who I didn't even know, were encouraging me, made me want to work harder and made me feel welcomed and safe (see reason #1). This can be taken back to the classroom. I try to encourage my students and have them encourage others, but again, until I experienced it in a situation where I didn't feel super successful, I realized the power of it. 

So what do I mean by all of this?
I'm not saying to go out and try hockey. Although, if you haven't ever, maybe you should. It is super fun, and you can feel yourself get better each time with practice. But if you're like, "No, thanks- not really my cup of tea," then try to find something that you are interested in, but have little to no experience in it. It has to be something that you are pretty new to, to experience any or all of these powerful moments. Also, it's helpful to find something where you can get feedback from 'experts' and team centered for the other aspects. I think if you do, you'll realize the real reason why these things are best practice in the classroom and hopefully make them more of a priority (as I will now put more emphasis on making sure these things are always at the forefront of my mind). It is a very humbling experience that I think is making me a better person and a better teacher. 



  1. I absolutely love hockey! My husband plays. We always joke that I should start playing, but I don't think I could do it. I'm 5'2!! So awesome that you have someone to pick it up with and that you went for it!

  2. Wow! I love this post! This is so true, Kelli! We teachers often forget how difficult it can be to try to learn something new, and that's exactly what we ask our kids to do every single day!


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