Everyone Should Have A Coach And Be A Coach

Michael Lewis, the prolific and highly successful writer, is now also a great podcaster. It’s not really fair, dude has too much talent. His second season of Against the Rules is about the proliferation of coaches in North American life. Lewis tells really interesting stories exceptionally well.* And the focus is not just on athletic coaches. Give him a listen.

His stories have sparked my thinking about coaching, my idiosyncracies, and the nature of schooling.

One of my idosyncracies is that I am coach-resistant, meaning I have gone through life mostly figuring things out myself. Or not figuring them out as it may be. As just one of myriad examples, when The Good Wife wanted to go to marriage counseling, I resisted. For awhile.

Part of it is I’m too frugal for my own good, but there’s a lot more to it than that. I wonder if my reticence is rooted in my parent’s Depression era, Eastern Montana upbringing which resulted in both of them being fiercely independent. My three siblings strike me as similarly coaching adverse. I suspect it’s in my blood.

Which is too bad because I could definitely benefit from some coaching. My golf swing is close. I am the Seattle Mariners of home maintenance. I find tax and estate planning awfully complex. My cooking repertoire is limited. My online teaching skills are nascent. I could go on. And on.

On the plus side of the ledger, I have coaching-like things to offer others interested in catching mice under their house or improving their fitness, finances, relationships**, or writing.

I doubt I’m unique. Couldn’t you benefit from some intentional coaching you currently aren’t receiving and couldn’t you coach others in meaningful aspects of life too?

If all of us would benefit from receiving and providing more coaching, why do we organize schooling as a super short 13 year-long period dominated by groupings that are too large for meaningful coaching to take place?

We could do more than talk about “life-long learning” if we had better ways of finding coaches. Some type of coaching online forum, where you could both find coaches and also connect with others looking for coaching. Moneyless coaching exchanges could even be arranged. You coach me on how to cook and I coach you on how to write your family’s story.

This type of “coaching-based life-long learning” would result in a deepening of community. More simply, less loneliness.

I would make this grass roots coaching “start up” happen, if only I had a start up coach.

* Particularly excellent—the May 12, 2020 episode, “Don’t Be Good—Be Great”.

**since I’ve been to counseling

 

Down Goes Bolton!

If this book review of John Bolton’s tell all was a fight, a ref would’ve stopped it in the early paragraphs.

Early in my academic career, I wrote a lot of book reviews. Overtime, I only agreed to review books that I liked since telling people not to read a particular book didn’t feel like a constructive use of time.

Fortunately, Jennifer Szalai of The New York Times does not share my philosophy.

Her take-down of Bolton is exquisite. Her intro tweet to her review is an appetizer of sort:

Screen Shot 2020-06-18 at 9.44.12 AM

The highlights, or if you’re John Bolton, lowlights:

“The book is bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much. It toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged.”

Szalai on Bolton’s impeachment dodge:

“‘Had I testified,’ Bolton intones, ‘I am convinced, given the environment then existing because of the House’s impeachment malpractice, that it would have made no significant difference in the Senate outcome.’ It’s a self-righteous and self-serving sort of fatalism that sounds remarkably similar to the explanation he gave years ago for preemptively signing up for the National Guard in 1970 and thereby avoiding service in Vietnam. ‘Dying for your country was one thing,’ he wrote in his 2007 book ‘Surrender Is Not an Option’, ‘but dying to gain territory that antiwar forces in Congress would simply return to the enemy seemed ludicrous to me.'”

The finishing touch:

“When it comes to Bolton’s comments on impeachment, the clotted prose, the garbled argument and the sanctimonious defensiveness would seem to indicate some sort of ambivalence on his part — a feeling that he doesn’t seem to have very often. Or maybe it merely reflects an uncomfortable realization that he’s stuck between two incompatible impulses: the desire to appear as courageous as those civil servants who bravely risked their careers to testify before the House; and the desire to appease his fellow Republicans, on whom his own fastidiously managed career most certainly depends. It’s a strange experience reading a book that begins with repeated salvos about ‘the intellectually lazy’ by an author who refuses to think through anything very hard himself.”

Szalai with the technical knock out.

Trump Puts Nation on Alert for Terrorists Posing as Peaceful Seventy-Five-Year-Olds

Trump is keeping Andy Borowitz busy:

“Trump listed some ‘telltale signs of Antifa,’ in order to help Americans identify septuagenarian terrorists in their midst.

‘If the person appears to be seventy-five or older, with white hair and a peaceful demeanor, call the authorities immediately,’ Trump said.

He warned that Antifa terrorists are infiltrating American society ‘everywhere,’ even on Zoom.

‘If you are on Zoom with your family and an elderly person suddenly appears with a friendly smile, a string of pearls, and the nickname ‘Grandma,’ you have been attacked by Antifa,’ he said.”

 

Thursday Assorted Links

1. Why I’m Learning More With Distance Learning Than I Do In School. By Veronique Mintz, 13 years old. Starts strong.

“Talking out of turn. Destroying classroom materials. Disrespecting teachers. Blurting out answers during tests. Students pushing, kicking, hitting one another and even rolling on the ground. This is what happens in my school every single day. . . . Based on my peers’ behavior, you might guess that I’m in second or fourth grade. But I’m actually about to enter high school in New York City, and, during my three years of middle school, these sorts of disruptions occurred repeatedly in any given 42-minute class period.

2. Don’t forget the other pandemic killing thousands of Americans.

3. How Yukon’s ‘one caribou apart’ physical distancing campaign became a sensation. I really miss Canada.

4. Was Donald Trump good at baseball? I couldn’t help but smile throughout this one.

Trump said he shoulda, coulda, woulda gone pro, but an intrepid reporter dug deep into the archives only to find:

“Combined, the nine box scores I unearthed give Trump a 4 for 29 batting record in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, with three runs batted in and a single run scored. Trump’s batting average in those nine games: an underwhelming .138.”

Then the reporter asked Keith Law, a senior baseball writer for the Athletic and author of The Inside Game who covers the MLB draft, if Trump’s numbers sounded like those of a pro prospect.

“‘There’s no chance,’ said Law, who once worked in the front office of the Toronto Blue Jays assessing high school players. ‘You don’t hit .138 for some podunk, cold-weather high school playing the worst competition you could possibly imagine. You wouldn’t even get recruited for Division I baseball programs, let alone by pro teams. That’s totally unthinkable. It’s absolutely laughable. He hit .138—he couldn’t fucking hit, that’s pretty clear.'”

That may be my favorite quote about Trump of all time. Just flip the bat and touch em’ all.

5. The Best Television Shows To Stream Now.

My Republican Friends Are Right

They tell me life is filled with risks. People die all the time from lots of different things. So why shutdown the economy over a stinkin’ virus.

I didn’t realize their amazing insight until today when I hit the yard HARD. Trimmed trees and bushes. Mowed. Edged. Blowed. Don’t hate me because the place looks so good.

Some of the bushes are twice my height necessitating a ladder. When working on parts of the bushes, I don’t have sufficient space to spread the legs properly so I simply lean the ladder against the bush. “Friends” who sometimes call me Slip because of my propensity to fall while running on ice in the winter, know where this is going. At one point, a bush I was leaning too heavily against gave out and TIMBER! Somehow I survived the fall but not without scaring The Good Wife who came running from the house fretting who she’d get to trim the bushes next year.

A little rain and lasagna later, I was mowing the steep short hill in the backyard overlooking the Salish Sea. Surprise, surprise, I slipped, this time going down faster than a Porsche Taycan. Total yard sale. Somehow, like an elite cowboy, I held on to the mower keeping it from disappearing over the bluff. And even though no one was watching, I immediately bounced up like Marshawn Lynch after a hard tackle.

Fast forward four hours. I thought I was done with dinner, but The Gal Pal requested “one more egg”. Well, of course, but plugging the cord back into the skillet is hard ya’ll. Burned my middle finger. I’d show you a picture, but I respect you too much.

The plan from here is to watch a little t.v., read in the tub, and ever so slowly climb into bed to fight another day. On second thought, the tub requires two big steps, so maybe a shower.

 

 

A Playwriting Renaissance

Yes, Broadway is closed, but there’s lots of time for casting, learning of lines, and individual rehearsing.

Homeschooling, a story in 8 tiny acts, by Kevin Van Valkenburg, Senior ESPN writer.

-Ok seriously let’s focus now

-Um … let dad look that up

-You’re grouping numbers why?

-Sit in your chair please

-Do you talk to your teacher this way?

-I HAVE A CALL. HERE IS A SNACK

-It looks close enough to right

-(sobs quietly)

The Haircut, A comedy in one act, by one of my more talented siblings.

Setting: Two adults sitting at kitchen counter eating french toast and bacon.

In-law: Want to cut my hair?

Sib: Absolutely not. Do I look that stupid?

In-law: Maybe.

The End.

Call it nepotism, but if I’m funding one of these, it’s “The Haircut”. The last line, “Maybe.” is pure genius. A bold, compelling, humorous, utterly shocking twist that no one will anticipate.

 

 

Saturday Long Run Press Conference

CNN reporter: Strava shows you ran 9.6 miles in 1:17 for an average of 8:02/mile. What would you say to the American people who are afraid that you’re getting old and slow, now nothing more than a sad “hobby jogger”?

Me: I say that you’re a terrible reporter, that’s what I say. I think that’s a very nasty question and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people that I’m older and slower. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. And you’re doing sensationalism and the same with NBC and Concast. I don’t call it Comcast, I call it ‘Concast.’ That’s really bad reporting, you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism.

OANN reporter: How do you run so far, so fast?

Me: I love whoever you’re with. Because that’s such a nice question. I think you write fairly and do very fair reports. A lot of people always ask me, how do you run so far, so fast? I tell them I don’t know, I guess I just have a natural ability.

NBC reporter: How would you assess today’s performance?

Me: When you hear the number of miles I’m running and the pace, it’s incredible. And I’ve heard a lot of governors say the same thing. People are saying I’m doing a great job, the best job anyone’s ever done.

FOX reporter: What makes you such an incredible runner?

Me: Really lots of things, but what no one gives me credit for is when I first heard we were running, I immediately jumped on the stationary bike and got the blood flowing against many people’s advice. No one reports that. But I did, I got right on the stationary bike. Many exercise scientists—and I’ve read, many, many exercise scientists—can’t believe the great job that I’m doing.IMG_5669.jpg

 

 

Talking About Sexual Stuff On The Phone

We routinely get loose with language. Take “phone sex” for example*. I write a family friendly blog, so it’s not like I have any experience with it, but isn’t it a bit presumptuous to label talking about sexual stuff with another person as “sex”? Granted, “talking about sexual stuff on the phone” is uber-wordy, but far more accurate.

Similarly, as everyone does these days, it’s presumptuous to label “on-line teaching” as teaching. Take Dr. Paige Harden for example:

Screen Shot 2020-03-11 at 9.59.06 AM.pngHarden has an informative twitter thread on how to “teach on-line” and you can see her and a colleague in action here:**

Everyone refers to “teaching on-line”, but Harden’s specific phrase “teaching to a camera” highlights the fallacy of the phrase.

You can present to a camera, but you cannot teach to one. “Okay Boomer” alert. . . the word “teaching” should be preserved for IRL settings. The “on-liners” can go as crazy as they want with “presenting”.

Teaching encompasses more layered relationships with students than presenting. Teaching interactions involve direct eye contact, silences, nonverbal communication, occasional emotion, and one-on-one conversations outside of class where each of those are even more integral. Teaching, at least in the humanities and social sciences, entails learning your students’ stories, tweaking your plans according to those stories, and being spontaneous and authentic in ways that are difficult in a separate studio. Teaching is messy for the same reasons all interpersonal relationships are—because everyone enters into the conversation with different worldviews shaped by contrasting gender identities, class backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, and political beliefs. And then, for good measure, add in status and power imbalances.

Teachers have a more immediate sense of how a course is going than presenters because technology-mediated feedback is harder to interpret. When I lecture in an auditorium, I can assess audience engagement based upon several subtleties including eye contact, head nods, facial expressions, and the number (and quality) of questions asked afterwards. The technologist will argue they can do the same sort of thing on-line, but I’m skeptical because teaching entails a dynamism that I don’t believe exists in on-line presenting. My “in real life” students routinely alter my lectures, discussions, and activities with unpredictable questions, or comments directed to me or their classmates, whose responses cannot be anticipated either. Again, technologist will say their presenting is similarly organic, but again, everything is relative.

So let me correct the record. As the nation’s professors and students turn to cameras, microphones, screens, and keyboards, some truth-in-advertising is in order. The country’s colleges are not moving to on-line teaching, they’re moving to on-line presenting.

*since no one talks on phones anymore, “sexting” is probably a more relevant frame of reference, another modern phenom I know nothing about

**Apple thanks you for the commercial