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Common Lessons from Cricket and Classrooms

My sport of choice to play has always been cricket. I played it for about 35 years.

I remember emerging from junior cricket ranks into playing against men and how confronting that was … especially when I had to bat against Rogo.

Rogo wasn’t even an opposition player. He was on my team.

I was fine facing opposition players, even though they were sometimes faster and meaner than Rogo. I always had the support of my teammates, meaning that the barbs and sledges of my opponents didn’t really bother me.

It was at our training sessions that I struggled most.

Rogo is one of the nicest humans you’ll ever meet, but he is wild and erratic with a cricket ball. As a nervous 16-year-old, I remember one training session particularly well. In three balls, Rogo hit me on my helmeted head with an accidental bouncer, hit me on the big toe with a searing yorker and then bowled me. I swear I didn’t see any of those balls.

But the pain I felt in my body was nothing compared to looking around at my teammates – now guffawing and chuckling about my inability to handle Rogo’s thunderbolts.

I’ve reflected on that Thursday afternoon training session when I watched young people in the classroom. It’s one thing to fail, either socially or academically. It’s another to feel the sting of shame in front of countless peers. That’s a palpable shame that’s very difficult to handle positively in the short term and even to recover from in the long term.

Clearly, the shame of being humiliated more than three decades ago – not by Rogo, but by the laughing of my peers –  has stayed with me in excruciating detail.

Part of exemplary teaching is understanding that your work will be more effective if you:

  • Understand that when a young person fails, it comes with intense emotional baggage when the failure is public to their peers.
  • Help your students develop positive shame responses and self-talk habits in preparation for moments where they inevitably fall short.
  • Create a classroom culture of optimal peer support for those brave enough to academically or socially pad up and face their Rogo.

Keep fighting that good fight,


PS. The Inner Circle is now open for enrolments for 2024. It’s a mentoring program I lead for School Leaders on the quest to establish a restorative school. You can learn more about it here.  Only 12 places are available.



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