Sunday, October 7, 2012
Do You "Better the Ball"?
Recently, I was watching Nebraska play Penn State in volleyball, and the commentator kept using a phrase that stuck with me. She kept talking about how the setter for Nebraska would "better the ball" that was given to her: if the pass to her was bad, she would turn the pass into a good play with her set. If the pass was good, she would turn the play into something great, even spectacular, with her set. She consistently made every effort to 'better the ball'.
I love this phrase because I think it has all sorts of applicability in education. In each of our schools, I would guess that there are things about our job that are not ideal. Maybe we envision a newer school. Perhaps it is more visionary leadership from a Principal. Maybe it is more money for better technology, more spacious classrooms, and to provide more choices for kids. It could be for more committed students, teachers, administrators, or district staff. We might see a less bloated curriculum. It could be a combination of a few of these, or perhaps we are hoping or waiting for all of them.
But back to the analogy, in each instance that the setter for Nebraska gets a pass from one of her teammates, they are giving her the best pass they could have given at the time. The moment that pass leaves the arms of her teammate on a less than desirable trajectory, she has a choice. She can kind of jog after it, slop it up somewhere high in the air and hope that one of her hitters does something with it: the pass was junky anyhow, so who would fault her? Let's just try to get the ball over and hope the other team makes a mistake.
Or she could do something special. She could sprint to the ball, get her feet set underneath it, square up and snap a laser out to one of her hitters, who now can surprise the other team. The opponents were expecting something sloppy and out of system, but now must deal with something precise and very much 'in' system. They likely were not expecting someone to "better the ball".
I think it is very important for us to take a step back and realize that our situation is very much what we make of it. If we choose to get mired down in all the things that are wrong in what we do and turn those in to barriers for us moving forward, I think the days would get very long and unsatisfying for each of is. But if we try to "better the ball" ourselves, and find ways to empower those around us to see each "pass" (challenge posed to us by our students, staffs, facilities, resources, district staff, etc) as an opportunity to "better the ball", we can make the experience for ourselves and our partners something special.
So, "bettering the ball" is something I must continue to work to do. How do you "better the ball" and empower others to do so with you?