One of the best things about being a kid is having the right to lick the spoon that has been used to stir the cake mixture. OMG. Do you remember how amazing that was? Licking the spoon was, somehow, way more exciting than actually eating a slice of cake.
And the best part is that you don’t have to do any work.
Someone else has learned how to bake, chosen (or written) the recipe, carefully measured the quantities, sifted the flour, cracked the eggs, and stirred it all together. All you have to do is enjoy the resulting deliciousness with a smile!
As a result though, and as good as it tastes, it’s a pretty passive experience. You don’t learn much. Sure, you might come to discern which types of mixture you prefer, and you may even develop the ability to critique the different textural and flavour elements – that’s ‘a little too sweet’ or ‘a little bit lumpy’.
But the thing is, you can’t learn to bake by licking the spoon.
Learning to bake is hard. There will definitely be burnt cake along the way. But bit by bit you get to trade consumption for creation – opening up a new world of exploration and possibility. Best of all, you can still lick the spoon if you want to, but you can also gift the spoon and its joy to others – whenever you like.
There is a very unusual type of statistic kept in professional Australian Rules Football called a ‘one-percenter‘. A one-percenter is a statistic that recognises an action by a player that entails just a little more effort or courage than normal.
An example of a one-percenter is when a player chases the ball-carrying opposition player over an extended distance. Even if the player is unable to catch or tackle the ball-carrier, the added pressure applied because of the chase is deemed valuable. These one-percenters, in themselves, often have very little apparent impact on the game, in fact they can easily go unnoticed, but collectively they can change the result.
The best educators tend to make an artform of one-percenters. The next chance you have to see an outstanding teacher in action, try to see beyond their content expertise and refined pedagogy and you might observe things like:
- their ability to subtly shift the energy in the room;
- an almost imperceptible nod of gratitude to a child who has again helped another student;
- a well-timed, self-deprecating joke to defuse anxiety;
- an extraordinary level of organisation, readiness, adaptability and withitness;
- an enhanced ability to ‘think like a student’, to empathise, and to inspire;
- an absolute present-mindedness, the sense that there is nothing more important than this lesson, this child, this moment.
In football and in teaching, it’s true that, sometimes, it’s the ‘big’ moments that matter – the great goals, the amazing lesson. But ultimately, the most respected and valued footballers and teachers are the ones who turn up authentically again and again, and really commit to the one-percenters.