pro sports – pro teaching?

Yesterday night, the Chicago Cubs won the National League pennant and are going to the World Series for the first time since 1945. Or so I’m told. (I might be a Northside Chicago resident, but I don’t actually know anything about baseball and I refuse to be a bandwagon fan.) But many of my friends are longtime Cubs fans and there’s been a lot of talk about the different players and what they did or didn’t do and how they got to the World Series. And it got me thinking.

Almost anyone thinks they have a right to critique what pro sports players do and suggest what they should have done (particularly when a team loses). Most of those people who critique sports have some background in sports- maybe they played baseball or softball when they were younger, maybe they’re part of a sports league right now. But I would guess that many sports fans don’t fully know what it’s actually like to be a professional sports player and all of the decisions and training that go into that one game.

I have a lot of sympathy for pro sports players who seem to screw up. The media attention and the replays must be hard to deal with, and I’m sure that they have to learn how to not let such criticism get to them. It must be difficult to be in a profession that’s under so much scrutiny all the time.

In some ways, teachers are not that different from professional sports players. Almost everyone has an opinion about how teaching and education should work in this country, because everyone has gone through one school system or another. And there is no end of critique for teachers and suggestions on what we should do to make education better. People are quick to point the blame to teachers when the schools seem to be failing (see Judge Moukawher of Connecticut’s criticism of “uselessly perfect teacher evaluations” and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner calling Chicago Public School teachers “virtually illiterate” and principals “incompetent”).

But there are differences too- pro sports players are not as a whole disparaged, and there is always the chance that you’ll be highly compensated (not really sure what happens to players in the minor leagues). In general, people seem to recognize the amount of work and effort it takes to become a pro sports player (although I do think there’s a misguided notion that all you need is talent). There was a Comedy Central sketch by Key and Peele on ‘Teacher Center’, a “what if” teachers were treated like pro sports players? And, as a teacher, I found it kind of funny but also kind of off. I don’t really want the level of individual public scrutiny that pro sports players are subjected to. What I would really like is a general acknowledgment that teaching is a complex task that requires continued training and development, and perhaps the funding to teach students effectively (and not continually being asked to do more with less).

I put long hours and a lot of thought into my job. I’ve been told that baseball is more interesting if you understand the strategy behind the game, because apparently there’s a lot that goes into it. I wonder what it would be like if people understood that there’s also a lot of strategy that goes into teaching, and planning good strategy takes years and hard work to develop (hopefully, though, not as many years as it seems to have taken the Cubs…)

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