Batting 300 – Swinging for the fences pt 2

This is the second post in my word series in spirit of circling the bases of baseball and education. I’m back at the plate to take another swing. Click here for an instant ‘read’play of my first at bat.

It’s the 7th inning, and your back at the plate, again. So far you have popped out to short stop, struck out looking, and are starting to regret getting out of bed today because you are sitting on 2 strikes already for this at bat; and the pitcher is feeling pretty smug about setting you down for the third time in a row.

photo by jcclark74 CC0
photo by jcclark74 CC0

You shake off the crowd noise and focus on the pitcher itching to make you look bad, again. Here it comes. The moment that defines you, validates you, and proves to the watching world, and yourself, that you deserve to be here. Your focus is Zen like. You want to hit one out of the park so badly, and leave the doubters gawking in awestruck wonder of your talent, and requisite, albeit, controversial bat-flip.

Here’s the pitch! Muscles tensed, eyes trained to the ball, hips and hands executing the swing in a fraction of a second, and in your mind play the immortal words of Jerry Howarth, “There she goes!” But the sound you hear is more of a thunk! You make contact, and the ball leaves the bat with barely enough force to escape the infield. Somehow, you are on base with a blooper, and after 2 failed attempts to get on base, you take what you can get. Time to make the most of it.

The classroom, like the baseball diamond, is where learning gets ugly and messy. Mistakes are going to be made, and that’s ok. Thoughts of perfection on every play only lead to frustration and disappointment. They are also unrealistic and can come at the detriment of the learner/player.

In baseball, like education, the goal is to get better every day. Results may often not be a result of what was planned or prepared for, but they allow us immediate feedback to keep our heads in the game. Do we quit when things are not going our way? Of course not. A perfect lesson in education, like a home run in baseball or pitching a perfect game, may be moonshot goals that should not keep us from swinging for the fences anyway.

Funny how life is like that too. The sweetest victories usually come after the most difficult times. As long as we are willing to be learning we are capable of achieving something. Success will look different from day to day. Are we preparing our students to stay in the games, step up to the plate, and take their swings? How we prepare our students will make all the difference. This comes through coaching, practice, resilience, and confidence. There is only one way to make this happen and it comes from believing in our students.

In a sport loaded with statistics, it is easy to glean relevant information about everything in baseball. Did you know that the last person to hit 400 was Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. It was in 1941 and few players ever since have even come close to attaining, what is arguably, the most illusive achievement in professional baseball. Education has been known to keep stats too. Between government standardized tests, and need for assessment metrics from JK to infinity in the classroom, there is no shortage of data. But what of it? Are we using the data to its fullest? Are there better ways to measure success in the classroom like Sabremetrics I mentioned in my first post?

Baseball Player by Paul Brennan little paul - Public Domain
Baseball Player by Paul Brennan little paul – Public Domain

Imagine that since 1941, not a single player has been able to hit the baseball 4 times out of every 10 at bats. That’s a 40% success rate! What if we looked at our students that way. Would any of them be in the hall of fame with a success rate like Ted Williams? What would are world look like if our students were lauded for their swings and misses as much as their hits?

To some, it gets worse. In the modern era, if a player is able to hit the ball 3 times out of 10 over lengthy career he too has a good chance of being enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame*. That’s by being successful only 30%. This got me thinking. How are you celebrating the success of your students? Are you finding them stressing over their last at bat(test result, essay, project)? Are they able to learn each time they come to the plate and take a swing without losing confidence when they get out?

In her incredible TED Talk Every kid needs a champion Rita Pierson shared how important it was to celebrate success in learning, even if it was a failure by all standards. I often lose track of this myself and need to take stock of the little victories that happen in the process. As teachers, if we are greeting students heading back to the dugout after an out with disappointment or derision then we are missing a chance to build confidence in them, and a chance to help reflect and prepare for what needs to happen for success next time.

If we can share this with our learners then success is possibly only a few innings away. In this way we can encourage and equip students to be ready for when their turns in the batting order come around again.

*Canada has its own completely different Baseball Hall of Fame.