Monday, May 16, 2022

One Antidote to Senioritis....Thank you, Tom Brady and Golden State Warriors

There is no vaccine for senioritis. I have wondered if there were, what effects it would mitigate. This year's variant of the spring malady is characterized by a resistance to reading and committing more than seven minutes to a specific task. I have witnessed stronger variants of senioritis in the past. In 2022, there are days when students have energy and enthusiasm and other days when apathy reigns. How ought we teachers treat it? What should be do in response? 

Likely answers include varied instruction, in-class experiences for learning, letting go and having fun. The problem with "having fun" is that it feels like catching "lightning in a bottle" with these 17 and 18 year olds. So when you catch it--enjoy the ride. And that is exactly what I did. How I wish my students understood teachers and students having a good day is not mutually exclusive. This lesson was a win-win.

Last week, my class and I listened to the podcast, "Why Sports Matter: Authenticity." While this particular episode focuses on a Death Match wrestler—Jeff "Cannonball" Guerrero, the creator and narrator, Gotham Chopra interviews Tom Brady and Michael Strahan as well. All men find the flow channel through their respective sports.

About half way through, Deepak Chopra, mindfulness guru and Gotham's father identifies the characteristics of flow and how it can help us understand our true selves. As written on Apple Podcasts, 

"We are what we pretend to be, so you gotta be careful what you pretend to be." Jeff Guerriero works a desk job during the day. At night, his Death Match wrestler alter ego “Cannonball” gets cheese graters raked across his head and wraps barbed wire around his neck. It’s in the transformation from Jeff to "Cannonball" where he finds purpose and contentment.  
Jeff may be an extreme example but it’s not that far removed from any other weekend warrior who plays or follows sports – or even other forms of expression like painting, acting, or comedy. Is part of the appeal of sports that they act as a vessel to get many closer to their true, authentic selves? We search for answers in our final episode of the season by talking to some of the greatest athletes in the history of sports. 

Although my students did not want to see live footage of Death Match wrestling, it does capture their attention. And so do the claims made by Brady and Strahan. Students left class that day intrigued and curious to know more. 

The next class, I used the following questions for review. This is when and where the fun set in. Take a look for yourself.

  • True or False: Extraordinary people tend to have addictive personalities.
  • What does Tom Brady seek or “look for” every game?
  • Brady said the football field is where he is his true self. What does that look like for TB12. Respond.
  • Strahan said if he had to do it over again, he might not. “It’s too hard.” Thoughts? 
  • Tom Brady signed a monster 10-year, $375 million deal from Fox Sports. What is the challenge he will face? What is the skill set he needs?
The answers prompted a spirited discussion. Here is a summary of their ideas.
  1. True: Extraordinary people DO tend to have addictive personalities. Students saw this as both positive and negative. It was not something they were seeking to emulate
  2. The perfect pass. We unpacked what that looks like for Brady and then shared what we might "look for" in what we do (when in flow). I look to hit my irons pure. Today, I enjoyed my round of golf a lot more because I did hit them well!!
  3. For Brady, this means if he's angry he can yell or scream. He doesn't need to hold back his emotions. Students felt that adrenaline factored in to this reality. Others said football is an incredibly emotional game; this is not surprising.
  4. Appreciation 
  5. This question reflects the introductory criteria for flow: challenge and skill set must align. If the challenge is too high and skills are undeveloped, a person will confront anxiety. If the challenge is too low and skills are strong, a person will experience apathy or boredom. One student believes that Brady's challenge will be to explain the game and its systems in a way that others can understand. He certainly knows the game!
I have taught seniors for over 20 years now. I love them in the Fall semester and less so in the Spring. However, come second semester, I know what I'm in for and I think we all appreciate that. I enjoy sharing in this special chapter of their life. I value their leadership, their sudden willingness to try new experiences and have conversations with other classmates. They are more comfortable in their own skin and see their teachers as human beings. 

I have to say the Golden State Warriors were mentioned several times for the sheer witness they bear to being in the flow channel. No senioritis there! Lots of perfect passes, perfect shots, and players allowed to be who their authentic selves. Go Dubs!

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