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Learning is...about putting on socks

Some of the best learning leaders in the world are athletic coaches. One of the all time best was John Wooden for years the basketball coach of UCLA. How he begin teaching his new group of recruits each year is one of my favorite learning stories and it includes a mastery lesson.

The first day of practice at UCLA was always a day full of excitement as the new recruits (most highly prized high school players in the country) awaited the arrival of Coach Wooden, the "Wizard of Westwood." He had won multiple national championships and each wondered what secrets of the game for winning would spring forth from the famous coach.

He began by announcing - "Please take off your shoes and socks." He said he was going to show them the proper way to put them back on. The players looked at one another in disbelief, no doubt thinking what did this have to do with basketball? He would then lead them in an exercise to pull on their socks. As he did he showed them how to be sure there were no wrinkles or gaps. He reviewed how to make sure their heels were fully seated in the heel of the sock and how to run their hand over the toes and make sure to smooth out any bumpy areas. He then demonstrated how to properly lace his shoes and tie them snugly so there was no room for the sock to bunch up. The best schoolboy players in America, and he spent 30 minutes teaching them about shoes and socks. And gave them their first lesson -- "If there are wrinkles in your socks or your shoes aren't tied properly, you will develop blisters. Blisters, make you miss practice. Without practice, you don't play. And if you don't play, we won't win."

Amoung other reasons for this drill, he knew basketball is played on a hardwood floor. The foundation of everything they did rested on those feet in those shoes. He was also implying they should not take anything for granted, they were going to look at every aspect of the game in a whole new way.

This is a trait of a master teacher. The ability to take something ordinary like putting on socks and make it extraordinary. Help students to see old things in a new way, expanding their vision and helping them to think differently.

Have you see the same? Do you have favorite story the illustrates the principle? Please share it.

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