During the NFL preseason this picture was being passed around teaching circles. For some reason it bugs me and this post is an effort to figure out why.

This is apparently a letter sent by the GM of the Raiders to the High School football coach of current Alabama RB Brian Robinson. The letter seems to be legit. Teachers sharing the meme though are sharing it because of that circled section. The circled section implies that professional football teams care about the punctuality and work ethic of a player going back to all the way to their teen years. I interpret this as teachers (most overlap with coaching circles) are sharing this because the circled portion implies that teachers should be focusing a lot of attention to due dates and work ethic.

So why does this bother me?

Well, to start (and to be snarky) – has anyone seen the Raiders play over the last few years? To accept this meme means assuming they are good at drafting players. But the results are not great with Mayock (the letter’s author) as GM. They started 2021 3-0 but then fell off a cliff. Even worse the Head Coach John Gruden has been fired after some racist emails from 10 years ago surfaced (guess that should have been part of the due diligence). Now analysists are driving into what a terrible job Gruden and Mayock have done drafting and signing talent during their tenure. Here is Bill Barnwell’s article showing just what a crapshow there work has been.

Part of my feeling is that this is all performative. Does anyone really believe that a pro sports team cares if a player missed a few meetings as a teen? Especially if the player has generational talent? At best this might factor into a borderline player’s draft status. If the letter were about a player with true 1st round talent and was producing on the field is there any doubt the questions would be ignored. When then Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence raised eyebrows pre 2021 draft with comments that implied football wasn’t the most important thing in his life, pundits were tripping over themselves to find ways to spin it in a positive way. Why? Lawrence had been billed as the next great QB – a generational talent – and because he produced on the field what did it matter if the game wasn’t where he found his identity.

Maybe that’s where this is bothering me. This focus on work ethic and dedication is all blue collar bull crap. Talent trumps all of this but teams want to appeal to their working class viewers (and the upper middle class ‘bros’ that can afford the overpriced jerseys but want to adopt working class imagery). Yeah, I think that’s part if it. The patronizing “we are a working class, lunch bucket and hard hat” team vibe. I cant remember which person in my twitter feed has a running list mocking teams about their blue collar aesthetic but as a kid that grew up in a single wide trailer with a father that worked un a factory for 45 years the appropriation bothers me.

That would bug me from the team stand point. Frankly maybe the Raiders should draft some more talent rather than the “hard workers”.

But it really bugs me that thisb was shared by a teacher.

I think it’s because the Venn Diagram of folks passing this around and those that would call for severe late penalties is probably close to a circle.

Is being punctual important? Yes. Personally, I get hives just thinking of showing up to an appointment late. Is working hard important? Also yes. So why does this teacher meme bug me?

Well, the Raiders get to select their players – schools (most anyways) don’t get to pick their students. We are supposed to grow students talent in academics. If we are punishing then for lateness or equity issues out of their control then we are not measuring their academic skills. Instead we are punishing them for things out of their control. We won’t know where they stand in relation to their academic growth if we are factoring in behaviors.

But what about those important “soft skills”?!?

Yeah, they are important but should that be the focus of my classroom? They aren’t part of my standards. If I chose to teach these soft skills it should definitely not impact their grade. I still remember George in my 2nd year at ECHS. George didn’t compete a single homework assignment and hardly any in class assignments. He did however get an A on every test, including the year end State Mandated test. He also managed to get an A on the major paper I assigned at the end of each semester. I wouldn’t call him a hard worker but he demonstrated that he knew the content and critical thinking skills he was supposed to know in my standards. Should his grade have been low because he didn’t do homework he obviously didnt need to do in order to understand the subject? I was still using a traditional gradebook at the time so I am sure he barely passed even though he was more skilled than his classmates.

He would have NOT been drafted by the Raiders… but then again they passed on drafting CeeDee Lamb in favor of Henry Ruggs…

Another thing that bothers me is the implication that students that struggle somehow don’t work hard. You see this letter will be pulled out at some point as a way ton excuse a bad draft selection. If the drafted player fails they can look at the letter and tell themselves they should have known better because the player skipped 1 practice 5 years ago. Some of my favorite students have been solid C students that tried hard but struggled. They did everything I asked and yet struggled writing papers or taking tests. They were growing and learning just not at the pace dictated by a state mandated calendar and were not able to demonstrate certain skills… yet. I think teachers (and especially admins) love paying lip service to growth mindset but dont really want to practice it. Work Ethic and LTE Penalties are ways to shift blame onto the student rather than be self reflective.

Then there are students like George. Maybe hard work can lead to a passing grade instead of failing but how much of assigned “hard work” is just busy work masquerading as important.

Maybe that’s what bugs me about this. This Raiders letter is just busy work masquerading as important. The Raiders will look at tape and know if the kid can handle the NFL. They just want to appear like they are doing due diligence and promoting a culture of work ethic. It also feels like a way to shift the blame off on to students; If they fail it’s because they didnt work hard enough. If they succeed it is because of the culture of hard work promoted by the team or school.

It’s a PR stunt.