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Friday, April 18, 2014

Teaching like a Baseball Team (Dear Katie V2 #16)

Dear Katie,

Experience on a sports team is incalculably valuable.  

I enjoy life. I enjoy baseball. And I enjoy relating life to baseball.  I believe in life, one of the most valuable tools you can have is the ability to work with others.  You need to learn to create, discuss, compromise, and compete in order to succeed.  Baseball is a lot like that and teaching is a lot like playing on a baseball team.

Your grandfather calls baseball the most individualized team sport in the world (he doesn't classify bowling, golf, or tennis teams as true "team" sports).  As he would say, in football, every player on the field has a responsibility that they are being depended on completing in order for a play to work. In soccer and basketball you can be assisted by a teammate in scoring a goal, but in baseball, no one can help you when you are up at the plate.  Yet your team can't score a run unless your teammates each execute their individual mission (unless you hit a home run).  And there are many successful plays where > 90% of the players in the game have no involvement at all.

No one's block of an opponent is going to help you make the catch and setting a pick is not give a pitcher an advantage in pitching a strike.  

Baseball is very compartmentalized, and to be a successful team, each player must be able to depend on their teammates to both make the right decision and execute properly in order to complete a play.

Teaching is a lot like that.

You will be in a classroom most of the day, separated from your teammates, just like an outfielder about to make a catch with a runner on base.  Your teammates are expecting you to make the catch and make a good throw to the right base to prevent a run from scoring, but they can do nothing to help you. 

A good teacher realizes they are just one player who along with their teammates, create enriching educational opportunities for their students.

Hope that you have teammates who seek what is best for the good of the team.  Those who desire to collaborate on interdisciplinary projects, who take the time to mentor you, who assist you when you need help (even if it's just to watch your class when you need a bathroom break), and who have the courage to correct you if you are doing something wrong.  

Great teachers know they are they are playing a team sport, 
not an individual sport.  

Great teachers know any team, even a teaching team, 
is only as good as their weakest link.  

Teachers know that for the best of their students, every teacher that a child comes in contact with must be at their very best.  I am thankful that in my life I have encountered teammates like that.  But there are teachers out there who do not care about how their decisions affect your classroom, as long as it allows them to meet their individual standard of success.  Other teachers are more out for personal glory rather than good for the educational experience for the student as a whole.

It is difficult to play on a winning team when you have a teammates who would rather be all-stars than world champions.


As you know, I am not a Yankee fan, but they had the best teams in the 1990's because they had a few future and borderline hall of famers guys who placed personal glory aside for the good of the team.  They also had a bunch of players who knew they would only get to Cooperstown with a paid admission and recognized their only way to immortality was in showing of their World Series ring.  In the 2000's, the Yankees forgot about this formula, and began to sign all-star free agents at each position and they never attained what they did in the previous decade.  

All-Star teams tend to flop, and their justification most times for not playing for the good of the team is that the team doesn't want it as bad as them.  So the team's low winning percentage becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So called "all-star" teams rarely do as well as expected.  Egos get in the way.

I am proud that I was a baseball player.  The skills and knowledge I gained in playing the game has helped me in life as a whole.  I need to do my job well because I have teammates who expect that from me, and I expect that from them.  We work together because we see each child's educational growth as our "wins".  When you get your first teaching job, you are going to need to ask yourself…

Do I want to be an all-star or member of a world championship team?

Uncle Kevin

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