*An ethic of practise: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaican sprinter and Olympian

The lockdown struggle is real. In between sampling my kids’ baking experiments, bread with no yeast being one such interesting delight, I’ve been trying to teach them at home so that they don’t experience too many gaps as a result of 6 months without formal schooling. This post is inspired by a conversation I had with my firstborn child- my 9 year old daughter.

The practitioner’s practise

I had been trying to explain the difference between practice (the noun form) and practise (the verb form). Lord knows it took all of my teaching repertoire to get this across: analogies, mnemonics, worked examples/modelling. It kind of felt like being on the ropes with Year 8 period 6 on a hot Friday afternoon. Maybe even on the last day of the summer term. I explained that a medical professional practises medicine in a health practice. In that magical moment when learning happens, something finally clicked and she begun to understand. Not completely, but enough for the distinctions to make sense in her brain.

But something more interesting happened. She said “so do doctors just practise on people until they get better?”

“Well, sort of” I said hesitantly. Her response was naively insightful. Of course that’s what they do! That’s what everyone does. We are mere practitioners just trying to get better at what we do. Everyday is a chance to practise again and again and learn from our mistakes and failures. We are perennial practitioners.

“All the world’s a stage”

Shakespeare wrote this line over 400 years ago in ‘As You Like It’. He clearly understood the concept of the practitioner. The opening line to this monologue continues with “And all the men and women merely players”. Player is an archaic name for actor. It wouldn’t be wrong to consider actors as people who are practising their craft right in front of us: much in the same way a doctor, teacher or lawyer would practise. The ends are different, but the concept is the same. We are combining together a set of tools, props, skills and aptitudes in a perfect synthesis to create a desired outcome. Whether the outcome be treating a patient, defending someone in the court of law, or teaching someone algebra, the way of the practitioner is the same. We are grasping at the edges of success where every moment is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Final thoughts

What’s beautiful about this idea is that there is no ending. The practitioner never actually arrives at any particular end-point because you are essentially forever a student. It’s humbling. It’s full of hope. And so I remain a perennial practitioner.

*I chose a picture of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce as she, along with many other great women and men, is someone who embodies the ethic of practise:

  • she is one of only 3 women to have won 2x Olympic gold medals
  • she is the only woman to have won 4x World Championships (which also surpassed her fellow countryman, Usain Bolt’s record)
  • She is the fastest mother in history

And here’s what she had to say about her success: “My secret is just staying humble…know who you are as a person and athlete and just continue to work hard.”