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K-State's Martin tells teachers kids haven't changed, but adults have

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, August 11, 2010, at 9:26 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, May 11, 2014, at 1:13 p.m.

Frank Martin had three rules as a math teacher, coach and truancy director at a high-poverty high school in Miami:

1) Be on time.

2) Be prepared mentally and physically.

3) Gimme what you got.

His job changed over the years —"I make a lot more money and do a lot less work," he said — but his rules for the Kansas State men's basketball team are the same.

"Everyone says, 'Times have changed. Kids have changed.' But they haven't changed," Martin told a crowd of about 800 Wichita public school teachers Wednesday morning.

"It's adults who have changed. What we accept is what's changed. Our lack of demanding is what's changed."

Martin, who last season led the K-State Wildcats to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament and was named Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year, visited two Wichita schools Wednesday to help inspire teachers and staff members as they prepare to start a new school year.

Holding a microphone and pacing the stage in the auditorium at Southeast High, he reminded teachers how important their jobs are and urged them to approach each new crop of students with passion and resolve.

"Inspiring kids, making people do what you need them to do, doesn't happen three months down the road," he said. "You start doing that from the day that door opens up, and you're consistent.

"That first day creates the environment by which you'll be judged every single day."

Martin, known for his fiery temper and steely glare on the sidelines, shared stories of his early career as a high school math and physical education teacher. At North Miami Senior High School, people called him the "dean of discipline," he said.

"Find the biggest guy with the biggest mouth, who's loud, and the little kids usually listen to him. That's how that works," he said.

He spent one year as a truancy director, picking kids up from street corners or from their homes, sometimes pulling them out of bed and escorting them to the bathroom to brush their teeth so he could take them to school.

"'They'd say, 'I don't want to do it.' And I'd say, 'I don't really care. You're going,' " Martin said.

"I remember thinking we might not be able to save everybody, but we might save one. And if we can save one, it'll be worth it."

His coaching style, he said, was drawn from teachers, coaches and family members he respected as a teenager and young adult. When he retires from coaching —"I'm either going to get sick of them, or they're going to get sick of me," Martin said — he plans to return to the classroom.

"I want to finish the way I started, because it's that important to me," he said. "I'm just trying to make you understand what kind of an impact you have on other people's lives, how important you are."

Among the teachers in Wednesday's crowd was Marcia Adversalo, who teaches sixth-grade language arts at Curtis Middle School.

"I think he had a very common-sense approach. It was good to hear," she said.

Adversalo plans to follow Martin's advice on the first day of school, being clear about classroom rules and expectations.

"I don't think I can perfect the Frank Martin stare," she said, laughing. "Maybe I'll put a poster of him in my room, tell the kids, 'He's watching you.' "

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