Thursday, September 1, 2011

Saturdays with Lily

For the last three summers I’ve worked with a little girl named Lily. Lily is going into second grade this fall and we began our time together when she was just about to start Kindergarten. Saturdays with Lily are one of the highlights of my week. I’ve seen her grow from a shy, soft-spoken girl into a force to be reckoned with. Lily has some health challenges that make it difficult for her to do contact sports. Her mother, wisely, did not want Lily to miss out on physical activity and thought golf would be perfect for Lily---she was right. This is another thing I love about golf---how accessible it is to people of all needs. It’s truly a lifetime sport and something I feel blessed to journey.
Every Saturday Lily shows up for our lessons with a smile on her face. Her progress has been extraordinary, but that’s not what I want to share here. What I want to talk about is the ways in which Lily has made me a better instructor. I talk a lot about allowing students to be exactly where they are. I also say that it’s important for teachers to “get on their level.” Speak in language they understand, use games to demonstrate techniques. But the single most important thing I believe you can do as a teacher is to hold space for a child to be where they are, when they are. If they’re having an off day, be silly. If something isn’t working, change it, and change it again. Children are remarkably adaptable but as adults we sometimes forget how important it is to sway, to move. To shift. To be.
Working with young children is an incredible experience in presence. In order to hold space, to allow children to be exactly where they are, when they are there, I need to be present. That means I’m not thinking about outcomes. I don’t spend the lesson worrying about what their shot is going to be like at age fifteen or whether they are going to go pro. Those things will happen if they are right for that child and as that child reveals to me the directions they want to move in, we will move there. But the child must lead. The reason my program works is because I work with children, not above them. We’re in this together. As partners. Friends.
Saturdays with Lily are a constant reminder of my partnership with these children. Of the deal I make with them when they step into my classroom or onto my course: I will hold space for you to be exactly where you are, when you are there.
It hasn’t failed me yet.
Be where you are. When you are there. And then play there.
With love,

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