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12 Ways Teaching Is Like Baseball

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1. Everyone has seen baseball, even played it, and thinks they could probably do pretty well on the field. In reality, it is incredibly hard. While many people have some ideas about teaching and opinions about teachers, they really have no idea how difficult it is.

2. In baseball, even if you are at the top of the league, you experience failure every day. You will experience tremendous joy, even elation, but also crushing disappointment. In fact, success only comes by having things go right some times within a project where failure often happens.

3. The richest teams, and the richest school districts, have everything better, from facilities to staffing to the personnel they can afford. When a scrappy poor team does well, commentators hold it up as evidence that money does not matter for success. But the exceptions prove, and sometimes simply reinforce, the dominant rule.

4. You have to keep a steady commitment, not get emotionally side-tracked, in order to perform every day. That is, you can and should get emotionally involved. But your emotions will get the better of you if you hold a grudge or you can't let go of a conflict. You have to start each day fresh, believing it can be a positive day for you.

5. Baseball is deeply enriched by immigration from all over the world. So is teaching, so are our schools. Immigration is not a "problem," it's the coolest thing about our communities.

6. Baseball can only be evaluated by the accumulation of multiple measures, an explosion of data, and judgments are weak when it is evaluated by a single metric. Indeed, Sabermetrics, which has transformed baseball, is based on a careful evaluation of over 50 statistics. Those who rely on simply batting average or win records get a skewed idea of what is happening. Evaluating kids and teachers with a single test score is distorting reality and narrowing curriculum. Excellent schools like Central Park East use a wide range of narrative, performance, and qualitative evaluations.

7. Disgustingly selfish bosses don't hesitate to take away pensions from ballpark employees if they can get away with it. Same with school and state bosses. Think Wisconsin's Scott Walker.

8. People think you get three months off but really you are working hard all year. And you work ridiculous hours during the season. 'Nuff said.

9. It ain't over 'til it's over. Never give up. We witness tragedy and heartbreak but we also witness miracles, every day!

10. You can talk about the baseball technique all you want but in the end it is an art, something that is only learned by doing, over and over and over. You can only learn by doing and paying close attention to what works and does not work. Then when you think you have it down, you have to improvise and change your plan because new circumstances arise. We even say, "That kid threw me a curve ball."

11. While you feel that you are performing alone out there, ultimately it is a team sport and requires deep collegial engagement. Often teachers work behind closed doors, alone. But the colleagues are important to hold you up, back you up, and make that awesome diving catch.

12. Baseball is a long story, about a whole season, with smaller stories inside of it. Each game is an epic story, and there are smaller stories inside of that, the innings, and smaller stories inside of that, each at-bat. The layering on of incredibly complex encounters, of a thousand decisions and choices, is what makes the teaching life so rich and complex.

One way baseball is not like teaching: The salary.