Three weeks ago, my friend Heidi and I decided that we wanted to start playing pool; it seemed like a fun game and we both had the itch to take on something new (that's the thing with swashbuckling best friends, you're always pining for some new and fun adventure). We went to a sports bar on a Friday at noon, dressed in semi-frumpy clothing (we were not going to allow anyone trying to holler at us interrupt our pool hustle!) We were gonna do this and we were gonna do it right. We had our quarters for the pool table, we had our chalk, we had our frumpy clothes and hats. We were gonna crush some balls. We were gonna kill it.
So...basically that didn't happen. Pretty much what happened was WE SUCKED (and we also got hit on, so I guess true B.A.M.F. (Bad Ass Motherfuckery) can't be contained in a pair of baggy jeans and Chuck Taylors).
One might think we were disillusioned about our new foray into the world of shooting pool; however, it had the opposite effect. We had a blast being bad at pool and here's why: first, we were together doing something new and that in and of itself is life-expanding and love-expanding, second, we were working together to figure this whole shooting a ball made of phenolic resin with an unwieldy stick of wood thing out. Lastly, it gave me, as a teacher, an invaluable reminder of WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE A BEGINNER.
Many teachers may forget what it feels like to be a newbie. And of course we forget...as teachers, we've all practiced our craft for so long that it's only natural (and kind of the entire point) to forget how awkward it feels to be bad at said craft. I may not be able to ever go back to a pole dance class and feel like a beginner, but at the pool table? YES. Yes in spades. I felt awkward, I felt like I didn't know where to put my arms and legs and how to position my body, I felt physically hot from being a little nervous, and I felt what it feels like to have the thought, "I'm NEVER going to get this." That's when I grabbed ahold of that little nugget that I've heard myself say over and over and over again to my students: "Just keep going. You will get this even though it feels awkward as hell right now."
I've been back to play pool one other time since then and I may go tomorrow...it's gotten easier and I'm having so much fun learning. I'm having fun letting myself be a beginner. What does that mean? It means going easy on myself. It means being patient with myself. It means letting myself completely suck at whatever new activity I'm trying - actually, it means to EXPECT myself to suck because why in the world would I expect anything else of something that I've never been trained at and something THAT I'VE NEVER DONE BEFORE??? We all put way too many expectations on ourselves when trying new things and I think that is why many people don't stick with new activities. You're going to really suck at first - but that is part of the journey. If everything was easy, then the reward wouldn't be as exhilarating. We need that contrast of The Awkward Stage so that the fun of The B.A.M.F. Stage can be so damn awesome. Besides, real badasses feel the awkward and do it anyway. TRUTH.
What a wonderful and weird journey it is from novice to veteran and I plan to enjoy it as much as I can. In the most frustrating of times I will try to remember this even more. Generating this feeling of "newbieness" has now become one of my "ingredients" for being a fantastic teacher. If you want to be a stand-out, incredible teacher, you can never allow yourself to get too far away from what it feels like to be that newbie in class for the first time. I never want to lose that connection so I will continue to do things that stretch me out of my comfort zone. Teaching is the love of my life and I will happily do whatever it takes for me to be the best for my students - and for myself.