For those of you who play golf, tennis, squash, baseball or any other sport involving a piece of equipment connecting with a ball, then you know about the “sweet spot”. It’s that magical spot on your racquet, bat or club where, once you have impact, your shot reaches maximum loft, accuracy and distance. You know exactly when it happens and how it feels. For me, not only is it a beautiful shot, but it is pain free, too ~ which is an added bonus when playing a round of 18 holes. There are a number of factors involved including point of contact, angle, stance, swing, grip etc. Not one factor is any more important than the others. All of them need to be in sync for maximum performance.
When I first started playing golf, if and when I hit the sweet spot (which was rarely), I was so pleased that I placed my club back in the bag and merrily went on to the next hole. Now I find myself stopping and reflecting on which factors worked and which need more tweaking. I also seek out and appreciate feedback from my partners, as they have a unique perspective on my swing.
As with most sports analogies, there are many connections to our world of education. So, when you are learning, teaching, presenting or leading others, what does that “sweet spot” look like or feel like? Is it engagement, eye contact or active participation? What are the factors that need to be in sync in order for a lesson or a presentation to reach maximum performance? Is it immediate or long term evidence of learning? And when we “hit one of the park” do we take the time to stop and reflect on what went right or are we too busy working on our next task? Do we ask others for meaningful feedback in order to help us improve? And if so, then how comfortable are we in making a commitment to act upon that feedback from our participants/students?
They say that the smell of success is sweet, but in this case, it’s the feeling of success that we’re working towards as we aim to hit the “sweet spot”
I would love to hear about teaching, learning, presenting, leading “sweet spot” moments.
Come write with me….
Aaaaahhh the elusive sweet spot when I hit “it” my tennis racket makes a special sound much like when I hit “it” in a lesson- an audible difference can be heard. There is a buzz of interest, excitement and engagement coupled with inquiry. P.T. Barnum said “always leave them wanting more”, well in educational terms I know I’ve hit one out of the park when at the end the questions come at me fast and furiously.
How I get to that point is a combination found in any championship match – preparation meeting opportunity. I always believe nothing takes the place of thoughtful and thorough planning. Within my game plan I’ve consulted the latest thinking on the topic as well as tried and true past practise. – a combination of both within my presentation allows me to resonant with most of my audience and leaves them open to whatever new learning I’m suggesting. I generally mix theory with solid practical application. Practitioners will be open to your message when they realize you respect the language they speak daily and you offer them a strategy to add to their own game plans.
But the execution of my plans doesn’t end there. To truly capture the match in straight sets to hit that sweet spot for those big or longish presentations like PD days, I go over my delivery plan many times before game day. I try to anticipate challenges that might arise, I look for soft spots and I play with my instructional strategies to know if I’ve varied them enough to keep my audience active and engaged throughout . By working through my strategies and predicting the ebbs and flow I can adjust my game plan. As a result I’ve corrected design flaws, I’ve worked to keep the pace of the day up and Im far more prepared for those bumps and curves that I didn’t predict .
As a final part of my preparations I look to scaffold and build my way to the identified and targeted ah ha moments to a crescendo of sorts! I want to co construct the learning with my audience and build them to the new understandings.
Having played out the match in my head several times and feeling confident in my preparations I make sure I get solid sleep the night before my match. I want all of my energies available to pour into each “shot” You can’t hit the sweet spot without the necessary energy to
execute your plan at each phase.
If I can move my team or audience to a new paradigm or to attempting a new practise that is rooted in solid next techniques and I can do it in a thoughtful methodical plan – well then I know I’ve hit the sweet spot and I’ve modelled for others how to get there in their own classrooms as well !! Game Set Match with the winners being our kids !