The Blitz Is Coming

From sportswriter Chris Brown on Grantland:

Throwing motions and mechanics go out the window unless a guy can be accurate under pressure and make great decisions. No one cares how good a quarterback is against air. What matters is: Can he beat the blitz?

The same, I submit, is true of rookie teachers. Rookies: Knowledge of subject and lesson planning skill go out the window unless you can react well to the blitz. The kids aren't going to sit back in a "prevent defense" and quietly dare you to teach them. They're going to test you more, um, aggressively.

To succeed under that kind of pressure, you need something more than arm strength, superior height, and even that coveted kind of on-the-fly fluid, athletic intelligence. Instead, you need, well, what is it exactly?

What you're looking for in a quarterback can't be put into words. It's some brew of grit, studiousness, and instant pattern recognition that allows the great ones to put their teams in positions to succeed.

Hmm. I think the author did just put it into words. Grit, studiousness, and instant pattern recognition. The first begets the second. The second begets the third.

Let's watch a football play.

So what happened?

The defense shows pressure, along with a few other clues as to its intentions, and each quarterback changes the call.

Instant Pattern Recognition. That comes from countless hours of work.

Tom Brady recognizes that the New York Jets are bringing an all-out blitz, so he changes both the pass play and the pass protection and delivers a catch-and-throw quick strike from the shotgun.

That is, Instant Pattern Recognition doesn't help much unless you also have Instant Adjustment Moves.

Mr. Brady realizes the lesson plan will not work, because the kids are blitzing him. He immediately reacts to the various types of small potatoes misbehavior. He does this with automaticity. He does not ponder what to do.

In our small teacher residency, we believe it's possible to (imperfectly for sure) prepare for the blitz.

What happens to quarterbacks who handle the blitz well? They get blitzed far less often. That doesn't mean life is easy.

Effective teachers, likewise, deter lots of small potatoes misbehavior by establishing early in the school year that they can handle the blitz. That doesn't mean it's easy for them to achieve their academic goals.