Have you ever found yourself pondering your indifference in contrast to the effusive enthusiasm of everyone else around you and asked, “What am I missing?” That was me–a conscientious golf objector–at the PGA Championship last week. To be fair, I loved attending the biggest sporting event Rochester ever sees, but I didn’t mind the fact that the tour probably won’t come our way again for another decade.
Something you cannot ignore at an event like this is how ardently aficionados recognize, respect, and regale success. Fans follow the storylines, praise perseverance, and wax rhapsodic about the most subtle differentiators of ability. Plus, in this case, they pay handsomely for the privilege of days basically wandering around a country club witnessing fractional strokes of a larger game: the PGA tour projects to bring nearly $200M to the Rochester region.
So what exactly does professional golf have to do with tutoring? I was struck by the endless adoration showered upon certain competitors even in the most casual moments, simply because these human beings could move a tiny ball into a tiny hole with greater accuracy and fewer strokes than most other human beings. This reductive perspective can be applied to literally any other skill to the same absurd end of diminishing even the most extreme levels of ability, dedication, tenacity, and performance under pressure. And that is not fair.
In the high school paradigm, these golfers represent jocks who are afforded endless advantages because of their sporting aptitude. A strict hierarchy exists in the way most public school districts support and celebrate extracurriculars: athletics command the most attention and resources, followed by arts, followed by academics. To this, anyone who has ever wondered why crowds throng to watch the losing basketball team rather than the winning math, chess, or debate team can attest. That is also not fair.
We tutors cannot change, at least in the short term, a society that reveres physical displays of prowess over intellectual ones. We can, however, make sure our students know exactly how much their victories matter. Provide them the necessary context in terms of percentiles or anecdotal information. Track their progress against peers in terms of understandable benchmarks. Most of all, shower them with even a sliver of the praise their classmates receive for similar distinction in different endeavors. Every success deserves to be celebrated.
While we’re lionizing unsung heroes, let’s talk a bit about YOU. Professional golfers tend to earn far more in terms of compensation and celebrity than professional educators. That dichotomy most certainly doesn’t mean that excelling in one area is more difficult or worthy than the other. Tutors matter. Your ability, dedication, tenacity, and performance under pressure matters, and aficionados of exceptional education can recognize real excellence in this field. Be sure to recognize the significance of your own accomplishments and join groups like Test Prep Tribe and NTPA where others can shower you with the recognition and praise you deserve.
Celebrate every success.
— Mike Bergin
Tutor Tips, Tools, and Thoughts
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