Several years ago the writer Malcolm Gladwell pointed out how surprising it is that even in the NBA, which is filled with objectively talented and elite athletes, it sometimes requires a team change or a head coaching change (or a mental skills professional) for a player to thrive. They might have bounced around to two or three places, had multiple disappointing seasons and then suddenly, when the environment around them is right, when they have the support they need, bam, they’re great.
His point was this: If even athletes being paid millions of dollars to perform need this, how can we possibly just expect kids to succeed in any old classroom we drop them into? We are so quick to write kids off—even our own kids—as not good at math, as a so-so student, as ADD or whatever. So quick!
But of course, environment is everything. The right supporting cast is everything. Timing is everything. We have to be patient. We have to be flexible. We have to take a page from these sports teams that, understanding they have a very valuable asset on their hands, do not despair when things don’t immediately click. No, when things aren’t working, they invest more. They don’t blame the star. They blame the system…and then try to fix it.
Well, our kids are even more priceless than any basketball player. And their education is even more important than playing a game well.