Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Michael Jordan's Ball

My friend and mentor, Heidi, taught me a lot about risk taking. Teaching - good teaching - frequently demands that you put yourself on the line. For me, simply accepting my current teaching position was one of the most courageous acts of my life. I hated my own experiences in middle school, so much so that the thought of stepping back into that environment, even if it was to teach, was scary enough that I almost didn't take the job.

I'm glad I did. Not only has it purged most of the bad tastes of my own early teens, but at Dead President Junior High I have had the chance to conquer even more middle-school demonic memories and hang-ups.

Mocked in choir in 8th grade for not singing in tune?
I sang a duet with Janelle at a school assembly last year.

A wall-flower at the few dances I attended?
I am one of the chaperones of choice for school dances, largely because I dance too, and the kids love it.

Shy, overweight, and excluded?
I dance every year in front of the entire student body for the Winter Assembly.

Over and over again I have faced my hang-ups and embarrassments and successfully and humorously relived them, usually in front of the entire school. I love it, honestly. I don't get embarrassed anymore. Yesterday, though, I faced my biggest inhibitions.

Our principal thought it would be swell if there was a faculty women's basketball team that would play against the school's girl's varsity team. Being male, this was a way of building school spirit that alleviated any participation on his part. So, the girl's coach, Amber, begged and caroused her way around the faculty and found nine other women who would play. Including me.

I don't think some of you understand how scary agreeing to this was for me. Most of my humiliations in middle school came from gym class and jock-types. This was the bravest risk I've taken in at least a year.

But I did it! I donned a sweat band, purchased some capri pants to play in, laced up my tennis shoes and put myself out there. And I didn't just sit on the bench the whole time, either. Of the 30-minute game, I played for at least 10 minutes, and I even touched the ball a few times during the game.

I went into it with no pretenses. I told my classes that I had no delusions of being good at this. (My exact words were "I suck." They laugh, I continue, "No, I'm not kidding. You don't understand the magnitude of my suckiness. I am truly terrible at this.") They asked why I was doing this, and I answered them honestly. They get risk taking, and they understood why this was a big deal for me. I think that's one of the important aspects of my teaching philosophy, that honesty.

And get this - we won! 37 to 26. It was a close game up to the end, actually. The girls were vicious, Janelle was aggressive, Kelley was amazingly fast, and Amber was tall. That helped. As did cheers like "Respect your elders!" "Run slower!" and "Only Four More Minutes!" from our team at the end of time-outs.

So, yeah. I'm proud of what I did. The entire school was there, and I played a sport in front of them all. Go me!

Here's some proof:

Look! I'm actually holding the ball, about to do something with it!

The girl's team. They're a lot scarier when they're playing.

Our team. We're not that scary.

By the way, do you note the purple hair? The cast of Honk acutally did it - 860 people came to our Thursday night show, and almost 800 came Friday night, so I dyed my hair last weekend. It prompted the student announcer to nickname me "Dennis Rodman", and I think helped distract the other team. Especially when paired with the yellow t-shirt, orange pants, and green shoes. I might not have played well, but I looked stunning!

I'll post more about the show soon, I promise. I think I need more time to decompress it before I can sort my thoughts into blog form. But it'll come, I promise.

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