Teaching is Like Bowling

This past weekend my wife and I travelled up to South Bend, IN to spend the weekend with her family. Her youngest brother turned 16, and with both of his older siblings out of the house, we wanted to shake it up a little bit for such a large milestone in his life. My in-laws live out in the country on the west side of the city, and the cold front that blew through the midwest this weekend pushed us outside for the majority of the weekend. It was a great time of relaxing and just enjoying the outdoors without sweating for the first time in months.

by Greg Nissen, FlickerCC

Sunday evening, we decided to go bowling as one last birthday fling before my wife and I had to head back to Evansville. The alley we like to go to has 12 lanes and usually less than 10 people. Its a nice, quiet place that we usually head to when we get the urge. By no means am I an accomplished (or even mediocre) bowler, so I’ll leave my score out of the discussion…and to be totally honest, I really didn’t even begin thinking about this post until the end of the day today.

If you’re like me, you go bowling once a year…maybe. We all pretend we know what we’re doing, carefully picking out our ball, lacing our shoes, and testing the hand dryer on the ball rack. We spend time preparing and visualizing bowling strike after strike while our friends and family cheer and give us high-fives as we strut back to the benches.

What really happens, is we throw gutter balls for the first couple of frames as we get our feet under us. The weight of the ball is strange and that lane begins to look a lot wider and narrower as we struggle to find a rhythm.

Teaching can be just like that, especially in our first few years. I’m only in my third year, and while I feel much more comfortable in the classroom now than I did when I started, I still struggle to find my rhythm.

I can plan my game all I want, but when it comes down to it, the best way to throw a strike is to relax and let the weight of the ball do the work.

My experience, albeit short, will guide my curriculum, my relationships, my decisions, and everything else that comes along with teaching.

So, what about those of us that have very little [no] experience? That’s when we find the pro in your department or school. They can guide you, give tips, and help keep your aim true while you continue to find your rhythm. There is no shame in asking for help, as long as you ask with humility. Be willing to take some criticism and realize that they have seen just about everything. We can learn from their experience and grow continually into better teachers.

Don’t expect a perfect game your first, second, or even third time out. Continue to work, learn from mistakes, and keep looking down the lane.