A few days ago, I thought out loud about the Parable of the Sower from the Gospel According to St. Mark. Last night, I watched my school's varsity basketball team hit the court for their first (and last) playoff game this season. Most the young men on the team are my students. Those who aren't shall be next year. Watching them play, I saw good ground. From the beginning of the season to now, their improvement as a team is obvious. Likewise, the individual improvement of several players cannot go unnoticed.
On the court, they paid attention to each other and the other team's players. They kept their eye on the ball. They had absorbed the drills repeated during practice. The Regis Knight with the ball knew who to look for. The Regis Knights without the ball knew where to be and when to be there.
I saw them play some of the best basketball I have seen them play all season. They had each other's backs. They demonstrated grace under pressure. They demonstrated physical courage. They demonstrated the sort of a gentlemanly conduct in the face of a challenge that we teachers strive to impart. In those long last two minutes of the game, when it became ever clearer that their opponents would win, my Regis Knights stayed focused and driven. If any Knight had lost hope, it didn't show.
I couldn't be prouder of them.
On the court, those young men were good ground. They were what I called "fourth-way students" in my last blogpost. The difficulties, worries, and distractions encountered during the game did not stop them from playing as well as they could. What would that focus and drive look like in a different context?
Imagine if each of my English classes thought of themselves as a team. Imagine if each student in each of my English classes knew his peers had his back. How often would a student show up without his book? Without something to write with? How often would a student show up on Mass day wearing the wrong uniform? How often would a student be blind-sided by a quiz that's been on the calendar for more than week?
Consider this: About every three weeks, my student have a poem to memorize for recitation. For some reason, one of the recent poems looked to be an insurmountable challenge for too many of them. More than two weeks after the poem had been assigned, student after student failed to recite more than the first quatrain. A few couldn't get through the first line. Imagine if my students saw poetry as a team sport. Imagine how that might change their behavior and attitude.
Imagine how much better their ground could be.
The Knights of the Mightier Pen gather in the hallowed halls of the Regis School in Houston, Texas, to share their tales and poems.