Monday, May 9, 2016

Meddling with that Oates quote

Scrounging around for something to write about, I scrambled to the Two Writing Teachers blog with the sense that the weekly quote might offer inspiration I needed. Now, I'm primed to sow more Joyce Carol Oates. After all, don't her words work nicely as a Mad Lib? "First requirement of the _____ is the ability to concentrate for long periods of time. Second... the wish to do so." That blank just needs a noun ending in -er. To become awesome at anything demands both sustained focus and desire.

I saw numerous examples of that this past weekend, when my first season volunteering to coach a high-school Ultimate Frisbee team culminated at the state tournament. Sure, focus for these teen teammates wavered on occasion. All of them, though, spent big chunks of two days playing the most Frisbee in their young lives to date. ("We have another game?" they kept asking incredulously.) I marveled meanwhile at how the simple task of playing again and again led to incremental improvements. Stilted offense started sometimes to flow. Zone defense that stymied us on Saturday turned slightly crack-able on Sunday, even versus stiffening winds. Players whose hands proved unreliable gradually found confidence to latch onto what my one-time college teammate lovingly dubbed the Frisbee: a flying handle. "It wants to be caught," he would tell anyone who would listen -- an invitation I find myself repeating lately.

No matter the goal you're after nor what you aim to master... Concentrate and wish; wish and concentrate. Putting in the time matters, but Oates's double-barreled mindset matters more.


  1. A former colleague has begun an ultimate frisbee team at my school (middle schoolers) & they too are improving, putting in the time, desiring to please, him? & themselves? Clever idea about the mad lib. The blank opens up possibilities for the heart's desire. Love your friend's words: ""It wants to be caught," That applies too, doesn't it? Thanks for the thoughts!

  2. One of my favorite students took the ultimate frisbee team very seriously- always focused. Cool to see how you made that quote work for you as a teacher-coach. :)
    Bonnie K.

  3. We don't have ultimate Frisbee; but we do have Frisbee golf at our middle school. I went to one of their tournaments, and it was really fun to watch them! I loved how you referenced Mad Libs in your comment about Oates's quote.

  4. I love this. We have an ultimate group at our school, although their goal is more about learning to play than competing. What struck me here was this idea of meaningful practice and how powerful it is for everything in our life.

  5. It brightens each Tuesday to see you here at Slice of Life! Always love your posts. Your memory of the friend who had faith the frisbee wanted to be caught and would be caught calls to mind the book I just read- A Mindset for Learning. The book describes a "constellation of stances"- empathy, resilience, persistence, optimism, and flexibility and how we can teach kids these stances. It was a book that I think will impact my teaching and how I look at the world. This post fit right into those glad you are here.