Today was the day of the big game, and it was one of the best football games I've ever witnessed. I tend to get bored by all the starts and stops of football (unlike baseball, which I think of as a fluid sport), but somehow was looking (and not talking with former students as they paraded by) during every great play, and ended up being more into the game than anyone in my section - jumping around and yelling my head off. I witnessed passes and catches that I'd rank as the best passes and catches I've ever seen, and was so happy to see three kids I taught last year be the stars of the game. A victory.
One kid runs like a deer, and had several long carrries today; he's a modest, quiet kid, and last year, when I was his teacher, he told me he was a "pretty good baseball player." I know that doesn't sound modest, but he's so unassuming and quiet - almost speaking in a whisper - that it came off as such. Then the season came around, and he had pretty severe turf toe and didn't try out because of doctor's orders. He looked real good today, and I'm hoping he surprises me and becomes a star for me this year. I need some surprises on the baseball team.
Another kid is the little brother of Mr. Superstar Student Athlete, who graduated last year. This kid's kind of a screw-up - not a good student, not engaged in class, gets in innocent trouble quite a bit. His big brother was a kid I coached for four years, and he always had maturity beyond his years, so the kid brother's behavior always struck me as odd. And I'm sure it's not fun to live in the shadow of a great older brother. [Just ask my little sister, ha ha.] So this kid was another star today, and it was so great to see him shine. His brother is playing ball at a school down south - full-ride scholarship - and couldn't make it to the game, so this was all Devin's day, and I was so proud of him.
And that's not even talking about the phenom sophomore, who was probably the game's biggest star, who I don't know at all. I do know the quarterback, though, and he's another of our school's great football kids - an unassuming, hard-working, modest athlete who, despite being starting quarterback of the team since he was a freshman, is actually kind of a nerd.
The day was a great one for football, and I left just superbly happy. I saw tons of former students, from "Bobby," who is successfully in the middle of his sophomore year at University of Maryland, to my baseball team captain from last year (now at St. John's in Manhattan), to kids I've taught over the last six years. My first year's students are now juniors in college, and I saw a couple of them - he a sophomore in my class in 2001, my first semester teaching, and later a captain for our team the first year I coached. Another kid, Micah, told me he's studying to be an English teacher.
Our school has a lot of pride, which is a good thing, and something my 9th graders don't quite get yet. It was Homecoming week last week, and several of the 9th graders didn't participate. One boy looked at me - dressed in my school colors, and partipating every day - and said, "See, we don't love this school. We're just going to this school because we got in." And he didn't understand all the school spirit: "Why?" he asked honestly. "Does everyone go crazy about that stuff here?"
And I half formed my thought before I answered back that he wasn't working hard enough to have pride yet. On Monday, I'll go into it more: pride comes from doing something yourself and working very hard to succeed at something. Most of my 9th graders - about 40% of the kids passed the first quarter, that's it (5 A's out of 130 students, about 15 B's, and about 25 C's, the rest D's and F's). They're just not working hard. Middle school came easy to them, and high school isn't. It's an adjustment. By the end of their course with me, and moreso at the end of their four years at the school, they'll feel they've soaked their sweat and their blood into their work, and they'll see that that's what pride comes from. Not wearing school colors and saying "Rah, rah," but, rather, earning something and recognizing the institution that made you earn it.