To improve our teaching it pays to go back to basics.

Every summer you can find advertisements for basketball or football camps where big-name stars, for a fee, will instruct young people dreaming of athletic greatness.

I wonder how much actual learning takes place when an all-star quarterback, who spends most of his time preoccupied with reading and outmaneuvering sophisticated defenses, tries to coach a junior-higher who's still trying to figure out how to grip the ball with hands that aren't quite big enough.

Sometimes people learn more, not from the superstars who have long since learned to perform the basics without conscious thought, but from others only slightly further down the road, those who've recently shared the same struggle.

Often, I suspect, a similar effect happens to those who want to achieve superstar poise and eloquence in the pulpit. The key is focusing not on the dazzling techniques but on the fundamentals. Improvement comes from concentrating on the basics until we can perform them without conscious thought.

I talked with ...

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