I never paid much attention to the game of golf before my granddaughter started playing it. Didn’t quite understand it, didn’t really care to. I was one of those who likened its appeal to that of “watching grass grow”. But over the years that she has played I have become quite captivated with the game and I have great respect for those who play it. It is a game of skill, patience, and perseverance that many people attempt and few excel in. My granddaughter is one of the latter, although with our competitive, obsessive, perfectionist gene set, she doesn’t always think so.
What often amazes me about golf is the unexpected circumstances that arise to challenge even the most experienced players. Golfers must not only be prepared to play in almost any and all weather conditions, but are also at the mercy of the most random things: small bits of debris on the course, the arrangement of grass blades, a gust of wind, the behavior of fans, the performance of other players, the actions of animals. We laughed Sunday as everyone stood around waiting for a squirrel to cross the fairway! I’ve come to realize that a golf game is a combination of technique and a steady application of problem solving skills.
Like any other athletes, golfers have good days and bad days. But more than some other players of games they are accountable for their own performance. There isn’t a teammate to assist them, relieve them, or recover the ball. It’s just them and a golf club, trying to make a little ball go precisely where they want it to go. Not as easy as it might look to some and certainly not something I could ever do. So I have learned to appreciate the game and there is usually a golf tournament on our television each Sunday afternoon.
I often think about golf in relation to teaching. Teaching is also about skill, patience, and perseverance. We do have the advantage of teammates and even those of us who do not actively “team teach” or have assistants in our classroom still know that we can turn to our colleagues for advice and encouragement when we need it. However, nothing else that I’ve ever done has had more “unexpected” challenges than teaching. Nothing else has required almost hourly problem solving skills. No matter how much we prepare and train, and practice our techniques, and follow our programs, there is always the possibility that a squirrel will cross our path when we least expect it!
I pray that as we return to school this year my fellow teachers will expect the unexpected and play their best game.