The greatest hockey player to ever play was Wayne Gretzky. Some may argue about Gordie Howe, but we will leave that for a bar discussion. The records he holds according to Wikipedia include most goals, most career playoff goals, assists, points, hat-tricks, most goals in one season, game-winning goals, and a bunch more. He was fun to watch and changed the game of hockey.  

Meanwhile there was a kid who realized he did not have the skills to play professional hockey. His dreams of winning the Stanley Cup were not in the cards. Chose to become a police officer for a living. He stayed involved in the game, becoming a scout first (part time) while he was keeping the streets safe. He was not in the conversation of the best to ever play the game like Gretzky.  

If you had to choose between the two, who would you want to be your head coach? The greatest player of all time, or a Cop who was a part time scout. If you guessed the part time scout named Pat Burns you would be correct. Wayne coached the Arizona Coyotes to a record of 143-161-24 (Wins-Losses-OT Losses). He never won a Cup as a coach, nor even took the team to the playoffs. Pat Burns meanwhile had a record of 501-350-161-14 (Win-Losses-OT Losses-Ties) and leading the NJ Devils to a Stanley Cup in 2003. 

This was something that always amazed me, why can’t the greatest of all time coach players? Why is someone who had an unreal understanding of the game, and incredible insight not be able to translate that to team success? And recently I came across a study comparing Tenured to Adjunct Teachers. I found this while talking to my kids about their teachers and decided to search to see if there was a difference. What amazed me about the study is that first-year students with Adjunct teachers did better than ones with Tenured teachers.  

Now the conclusions the authors produced, as well as the plethora of news articles were interesting. Many suggest that colleges can cut expenses by not using tenured teachers, others stating that tenured teachers do not put the effort into teaching etc. I somehow looked differently at the situation. And I find myself trying to avoid the Gretsky problem. 

I find on occasion when working with younger employees that some concepts that I believe are common knowledge, well they do not grasp. I find myself getting frustrated with why they do not understand something that I know. This happens to me when helping my parents, friends, or other relatives, when helping them do something on their computer or smart phone also. I spend a lot of time learning new things and skills and assume those skills are common.  

So let us put this all together. What connects these was something my daughter said while we were skating. She was asked by her old coach if she would be interested in coaching skating. She replied that she might, but then later told me she was not sure she could deal with teaching kids how to start. She would like to teach some of the advanced things, but just getting them on their feet would not be fun. Gretzky, being a talented player could struggle to get through to players what he knew. He was so much better than anyone else it was hard for him to be able to get players to get to his level.  

What about Tenured (or tenured tracking) teachers? Teaching in most colleges is not the driver, it is publishing and research.  At Carnegie Mellon one teacher had us proofreading his book as students. In fact, most college professors are not taught to teach, not even have a teaching degree. Teachers in 4-year schools have several responsibilities and teaching is one of them. With the focus on research, they also do not have the skill or training to teach. Einstein, who could be considered one of the best physicists, struggled to teach, at one point having to cancel a class when no one registered. The GOAT researcher, obviously not that great at teaching. 

Let us think about when your are the student. When I am a student, I need to make sure the person who is trying to teach me understands the limit of my current knowledge. Thus, he can first get me to the based understanding or get my skills where they need to be to be able to tackle the more complex problems. Learning is a two-way street, it is not just the teacher who must adjust, but the student must also make changes to get the best out of the engagement. Pat Burns was not the greatest player, but he was able to teach the game and coach better than the best player in the world. When you are in the position of mentoring, teaching, or coaching remember that, and you can be the best teacher in the world. 

This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.