Tony Dungy was uncharacteristically angry. In his recent book Quiet Strength, Dungy recounts how two of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers had missed public appearances back in 1996.  He told the team: “We are not going to talk about football . . . We need to focus on us, on changing our own attitudes and accountability.  Obviously your word isn’t important to you if it doesn’t involve the game of football.  You don’t seem to think being accountable off the field is important.  But as far as I’m concerned, we are never going to win consistently until you all get rid of that attitude.”

In the epilogue, Tony finishes the story, ten years later, after his Super Bowl victory with the Indianapolis Colts “Regan [Upshaw] brought up our time together with the Buccaneers.  “Coach, I just want to thank you,” Regan said, “I remember how you were always talking about responsibility and doing things right and the importance of the off-the-field stuff.  Every time you said those things, I always thought, Dog, why are you on me about all this stuff that doesn’t matter? But those things you were telling us—those things are the reason I’m married today and why my kids are doing so well.  Some of those things just made no sense to me at the time, but they make sense now.  I can’t thank you enough for staying on me.[1]”   Teaching anyone at any level must go hand in hand with relationship.

Recently I was working on a paper about how Jewish people teach.  You see, Hebrew education was hard work but always connected to daily life in personal relationship with students.  Seeking a personal approach to the paper, I asked former students on Facebook to reminisce about the legacy certain teachers left in their lives.  I queried, “Who was your favorite teacher in high school?  Why?  And how is this teacher remembered in your mind?”  To a person, the students looking back said their best teachers were both demanding of classroom content and nurturing in their classroom relationships.  The movie The Emperor’s Club is an example.  The impact a teacher named Mr. Hundert had on his students is explored in the film.  Training his pupils in Classical education, Mr. Hundert demanded authoritative knowledge of history while demonstrating fatherly care for his classes.  Like Jewish rabbis and Mr. Hundert we teachers demand academic excellence wrapped in personal care for students’ lives.

Tony Dungy was known as a teaching coach.  His focus was training the person for their best team performance and for life.  Tony knew his players, and his players knew he cared.  Dungy, the fictional Mr. Hundert, and thousands of teachers practice the ancient Jewish truth—the hard work of learning is done with people.  For Moody Radio, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, personally seeking truth wherever it’s found.

Teaching. Moody Radio Commentary. Summer, 2010.

Dr. Mark Eckel, Professor of Old Testament

[1] Tony Dungy. 2007. Quiet Strength. (Tyndale): 123, 299.

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