And Now for a Little Humor
Nicholas Dawidoff’s essay, “The Power and Glory of Sportswriting” in Sunday’s NY Times reminds me of why I read the sports pages, not because I follow any particular team (except the hapless Cleveland Indians) but because I like the stories.“Athletes, after all, are characters to a sportswriter,” says Dawidoff, and the essence of good sportswriting is empathy for your characters. The legendary sports writer Frank Deford, for example, can write about any sport with such wonderfully wry humor and insight that you end up sitting in your car listening to him even when you’ve arrived at your destination (what NPR fundraisers call a “driveway moment”).
Sports writers are very different from education writers, who tend to focus a lot more on the front office than they do on the players. We write a lot about policy and politics as they affect large groups and not very much about the individuals – teachers and administrators -- who take the field for every game. Education comes off as serious business – and it is -- unless you’ve actually worked in schools for any length of time. Then, if you don’t have empathy and a sense of humor, you won’t survive -- which is why advice for teachers and administrators works best when it can also make you laugh.
This is sort of a long-winded introduction to what Click and Clack call the “shameless commerce” part of my blog today. The second edition of my book, How to Handle Difficult Parents: Proven Solutions for Teachers (Prufrock Press 2012) arrives in bookstores and online today. It has more real-life anecdotes and humor, and it contains a couple of new topics like how to work with parents of special education students. You perhaps wouldn’t think this topic is all that funny, but if you work in the field, you know it has its moments. You also know that many parents of special ed kids didn’t start out as difficult but found they needed to become so in order to get services for their child. There are, however, good ways to avoid this unfortunate turn of events and work with parents instead of against them.
I’ve also added a chapter on coaching, which includes a number of tips on how to work with parents who think their child is destined for the Hall of Fame in whatever sport he or she is playing if the coach could only recognize the kid’s potential. This chapter is filled with cautionary real-life anecdotes like the one about the parent who mooned the ref at a basketball game, the one who questioned the coach’s virility, and the one who got a golf club out of the trunk of her car not to threaten another parent at a soccer game, but simply to practice her chipping while the kids were playing.
You might say I’ve tried to come at the topic more like a sportwriter than an education writer. Dawidoff says that “the appreciation of others is, for most, the reason to watch games, and it happens to be a noble human quality.” What teachers do every day is admirable, and after all, teachers and athletes are similar in many respects – training, determination, courage, effort, salary – oh, wait, not that one.