Novak Djokovic is undeniably one of the greatest tennis players of all time, but he pays someone to coach him to help him get better.
Who knows, maybe Djokovic himself would say he is one of the greatest because is he paying someone to help him get better?
One cannot fail to be impressed by the contrast with the IP
Would any of us argue that he is as good at teaching as Djokovic is at tennis? Very few among us, I think. Yet when it comes to getting advice on how to teach better, defensiveness is more the rule than the exception.
Who can say a good word about Ofsted? How many teachers ten years later welcome a critical review of their teaching? I even heard a college principal say at a conference recently that he had to manage his own defensive response when receiving feedback about the college department’s performance.
None of us consider ourselves to be perfect. We would probably all agree that there is a theoretical possibility that we have something to learn. Yet we resent those who offer to help us become better. Why is this?
Maybe it has to do with self-esteem. Learning is much more difficult than hitting the ball over the net. Our hearts and minds are engaged. Effective teaching requires building relationships with other people, colleagues as well as students.
We’re emotionally involved in it, so perhaps it’s no surprise that when someone comes along and criticizes our work, we take it as an attack on ourselves.
Constructive criticism is welcome
There may be some truth to this, but it doesn’t solve the puzzle for the simple reason that it’s all true for the best tennis player – and they welcome constructive criticism.
Perhaps the reason is our vulnerability? Teaching activity absorbs us completely. We are completely focused on what we are doing and therefore unusually exposed to the eyes of an observer who sits and judges us while our backs are turned.
This may bring us closer to the heart of the problem, but it hardly explains why a college principal is defending his teachers.
And it’s just not rational. No one likes to take medication or get a filling at the dentist, but we’d rather have treatment than not. But somehow our professional health is different.
Does the very nature of the profession not prepare us for improvement?
A third possibility, I suggest, is that the very nature of the profession does not prepare us for improvement. The whole point of his existence is to help other people improve.
Apparently, I was hired for my first job as an English teacher because the hiring committee felt that I had a better command of English than the students I would be teaching and could help them become more like me in that regard. ?
Living and working day to day, in this hierarchy of quality, perhaps it’s a nasty shock when the tables are turned and we find ourselves subject to the expectation of improvement?
Of course, there is one assumption in all of this that we haven’t noticed until now.
Does Djokovic take all the advice his coach gives him with the calmness of a Buddha?
Could it be that he also sometimes feels frustrated, disappointed, hurt or even angry when dealing with criticism, even constructive?
But he pays this coach.
And that tells us one thing we can be absolutely sure of, and that Djokovic is absolutely right:
Some things matter far more than hurt feelings.
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