Practice

Phil Mickelson.  He's old by golfing standards.  My age. 

ESPN:

"The guy is playing the best golf of his life," said a tearful Bones, who's looped Phil for 21 years. "I don't care how old you say he is, this is the best he's ever played."

But how can he be? At 43?

"Why shouldn't I?" Mickelson says. "I'm in better shape than I've ever been. I'm more flexible. My diet is better. … Why can't I?"

He can, I guess, especially when you consider that he now has a huge, world-class practice facility in his San Diego backyard that he designed and built himself. It features six greens made of every type of grass in the world he putts on, bunkers of every stripe, and a grounds crew of six that jumps at his slightest whim. Before Merion, for instance, he asked them to take the greens up to Merion speed, which was just slightly faster than the hood of a 1989 Chrysler.

"That practice facility has made a world of difference," says Harmon.

Says Amy, "Now he can practice at home a lot more. Even if he only has a spare 15 or 20 minutes, he can go out there in his flip flops and hit shots."

In a profession like golf, where everyone practices several hours a day, Mickleson's breakthrough is....more and better practice!

Alas, practice a problem in the teaching profession.  I would argue it almost never happens. 

Doug Lemov:

We spend a lot of time in PD reflecting and talking about and discussing. But we don't spend a lot of time doing and repeating and honing. And that's what makes you better. Teaching is a performance profession, and by that I mean that it is performed live.  If you have a great lesson on Tuesday it guarantees you nothing on Wednesday. 

 

Doug took a shot at changing that. 

His book, called Practice Perfect, is #24,000 or so in the Kindle bookstore.  His other book, Teach Like A Champion, is #300.  TLAC you can reflect on and discuss.  PP tells you to practice. 
I'm not sure we want to hear that.  It's not part of the normal way we think about the job.  A teacher's plate is chock full of many tasks, but rarely practice. 

Moreover, I'm not aware of a single charter school or network where practice is a significant part of the typical teacher day or week or month, including our own, though I'd be happy to learn about one.  Is there one? 

Here's a puzzle for you. 

You know Gladwell's 10,000 hour idea from Outliers, where he says that 10,000 hours of practice is key to breakthrough success in just about anything?  Why doesn't that apply to teaching?   Why does the evidence suggest that a teacher who has spent, say, 4 years teaching (estimated 3,600 hours of actual teaching) is roughly as good as a teacher who has spent 12 years teaching (above the 10,000 hours)?

My guess:

It's because teaching a class of 20 kids is not "practice."  It's performance. 

It's the same reason that my golf game is the same year after year.  True of most people.  I am playing more total hours, sure.  I sometimes play golf.  But I'm not improving, because practice is different from playing. 

The teaching profession includes almost no practice in a typical day, week, month.  And it's a key limiting factor.  Possibly the key limiting factor, and one that nobody talks about.