Is Howland A Bad Teacher?

What follows started as a response to Bellerophon's excellent front page post on UCLA's Malaise and Favoritism.

It got so long that I thought I'd better not mess up his thread so I'm posting it as a stand alone fan post.

Like most of us, I really want to love CBH. I believe that he truly understands our culture and honors and reveres Coach. I like the idea of his willingly being "the Caretaker" of someone else's program. I think he is a principled man. And, I like him.

The charges of his "favoritism" really sting. Favoritism in the "classroom" is unacceptable. It cheats all students; those who work hard and get no rewards are obviously hurt; however, those who slack and still get rewarded are hurt, too; for they will never grow and reach their full potential. And, it is a very damning charge to level against a teacher.

First and foremost, Coach was a teacher. And, he was proud of it. Everything he did, be it in a classroom or on a court, was a multi-layerd lesson. What seemed practical -- like putting on socks -- carried a larger lesson of paying attention to details.

I've been around teaching and teachers all of my life. Great teachers create opportunities to teach. And, great teachers never let a "teaching moment" slip past them.

I am beginning to fear that CBH is not a good teacher. That he cannot create or take advantage of teaching moments, that he does not know how to use them and that he does not know how to communicate the lessons to be learned.

He may be a great X and O coach -- but he may not have the depth to teach life principles -- bigger lessons. And, for me, it's those bigger lessons, taught through sports, that justify their place on a campus.

I think what some are seeing as "favoritism" is in fact a lack of teaching skill. It is the failure to set a clear standard, articulate the standard, and use key moments to explain to the student how he or she is missing the lesson to be learned.

I think that's at the root of what is perceived to be CBH's lack of principle in allowing Nelson, Honeycutt and last year's bricklayer to play at half effort, while pulling Brendan Lane while he is playing his ass off, successfully.

Or, pulling Josh Smith to punish him and leaving him out an inordinate amount of time. What lesson did he convey to Josh? I wonder if there was one.

And, I think we all wonder whether those lessons are being taught fairly, across the board to all who need them. 

We try to see a pattern or lesson in the use of the bench where there may not be one. And, we try to see the doling out of playing time as a principled decision when no lesson may be intended. Maybe, to CBH it's just playing time. Not a lesson.


I never get the sense that Howland has a consistent clear standard so that when a player is pulled to the bench he learns something from it. Quite to the contrary, because players doing well suffer the same fate, I wonder if anyone understands how the bench is used and why.

And, therein lies the problem. 

Because, if we are not teaching these young men the lessons they must learn to achieve greatness, we are failing them. I feel bad for Nelson and Honeycutt. They have so much potential -- much of which may well go unrealized.

There were some great players under Coach who did not see much floor time. Some were upset with him and left less than thrilled to have been on his team. But, years later, they understood what he had taught them and made clear to the world what a great teacher -- of life -- he was.

Right now, I wonder whether CBH's players, past and present, feel that way. I know that those who are playing well in the NBA will say things like "He taught me D" but I wonder whether he taught them any of life's more important lessons -- like Coach's teachings on "Satisfaction".

In some ways, it would be easier if Coach Howland were "playing favorites". I think that's something that one might cure easily.

I fear that he is not a good teacher. There are many brilliant professors, I had some at UCLA and worked with others on my faculty, who simply cannot teach. They can think. They have great values. They totally understand things in profound ways. But, they cannot turns those thoughts into clear lessons and they cannot teach them.

Another indication that he might not be a good teacher is the use of the label "not a good communicator". To me, that is a damning thing to say about someone who is charged with the education of a student. Yet, all universities are filled with brilliant people who are not "good communicators". Bright people, who cannot teach.

It is very hard to approach someone who is failing int the classroom. It's a lot easier to critique a product like written research. Critiquing teaching is really reaching into someone's most vulnerable inner self. So few people will do it. We fear "offending" the teachers so we let them fail.

I don't choose to see CBH as an unprincipled man playing favorites. I choose to see him as a man who is not teaching well.

I truly hope someone is looking at the "teacher side" of CBH and that someone has the courage to help him change should that be necessary. 

I, for one, like CBH too much to let him fail.

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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