Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Teacher learns from basketball

On some fundamental level, basketball is a game for which, love it as I may, I have no real aptitude. I move too slowly; the signals from my brain take too many detours on the way to my legs and arms. But it’s a good thing for someone who makes his living as a teacher to submit himself to a discipline that doesn’t come naturally. It builds a sort of kindliness and tolerance for students who come with varying abilities—some with seemingly no aptitude at all. Without the genial frustrations of basketball, I’d be more likely to think that stamping my foot might be the best way to get someone who seems utterly unable to understand a word of a poem by Wordsworth to find its flow. Well, I might suggest instead to this student that he can learn to read "Tintern Abbey" a little the way I learned to shoot a hook. Break it down into small, small elements; go one piece at a time; trace all the micromovements. "Long live what I badly did at Clemson": that’s James Dickey, thinking back to his "spindling explosions" as a running back in college. Well, long live what I do badly enough at basketball—humility, as the critic R. P. Blackmur liked to say, comes through submitting yourself to humiliation from time to time. 
Mark Edmundson, “Fadeaway Jumper,” American Scholar, v. 75, no. 1, Winter 2006, p. 61 at 65

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