Friday, April 06, 2007

As I was watching a soccer match today, I began thinking about teaching, and whether my English classes could be thought of as similar to playing soccer. One point of comparison would be the patience that is obviously required of both soccer players and my students. In the game I was watching, you might say “nothing much happened” for a great part of the contest, just as, from one point of view, nothing much happens during my English classes. The players spent much of the time passing the ball back and forth, with very few goals scored, and similarly, my students and I spend a good deal of our time doing seemingly dry things like discussing passages in a book or reviewing writing techniques. To non-soccer fans and people who are unfamiliar with English teaching, the game and my classes could seem fairly monotonous. That’s where patience comes in. The soccer players realize that every goal comes only after many minutes of careful teamwork – of setting up plays, passing from side to side, watching vigilantly for openings, and working together somewhat like dancers. This is what has made soccer “the beautiful game”, as it’s known in parts of the world – a game of patience, persistence, staying power, and even elegance and serenity. The players go about their graceful work while patiently waiting for the chance to score. My students, too, must put in long minutes of careful work during my classes -- talking, listening, responding, and thinking. Occasionally we have a breakthrough –a “goal”: we all may realize an important truth about the book we’re studying, or a whole set of essays may turn out to be brilliant. That happens only now and then, however. The greater part of the time in class is spent doing the tedious (but often graceful and inspiring) work that leads to such satisfying culminations. We don’t score many “goals”, and when we do, we don’t cheer and high five each other, but the feeling is something like winning soccer teams must have.

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