Thursday, January 25, 2007

I "dig" it!

Do you often have nightmares about the formative high school years? Specifically, the dreaded "Physical Education?"

In my personal nightmare, we are participating in a volleyball unit. Well, some of us are participating. Others are standing around and sticking their arm straight out if the ball comes within three feet of them. Boys are taunting each other and egos are getting built up and bruised simultaneously. The ball is ricocheting off the ceiling, bleachers, and the teacher is beginning to get angry. And there I am, suddenly reeling from a well-placed senior spike to my very freshman nose and feeling the uncontrollable reflex of tears making their way to be viewed by everyone. Why do they have to be the senior boys? And then to hear, "Rachel! Get it next time!" and groans on my team at the lost point. I can't even get into the whiffleball trauma I experienced... It's too much too soon.

Why does any of this matter now that I've been out of high school for three years? (Just seeing how closely you're reading...) Because I just experienced a "Farewell to the Third-year Students of Chatan High School Volleyball Extravaganza Competition Tournament!" That might be a bit of a loose translation, but when I heard the opening and closing speeches, the title had to be that long to warrant standing around for 25 minutes. I know that I complain a lot about my school and students. Today, though, I found some amazingly positive attributes that have given me hope in my students again.

How the day worked--- We all went to the Koza Athletic Park gym center where there were three volleyball courts set up. Students participated in their homeroom classes with their special T-shirts they designed last April. Attendance was taken and everyone was required to participate. Gradually the competition was narrowed down to one champion. Simple.

Now imagine trying to do this in the United States. First of all, most students wouldn't make a special trip out to the park and would just not show up for the day. There would be numerous students who would absolutely refuse to participate. Having some freedom during the day would open the door for all sorts of mischief - big and small. My students were given free reign of the building, although attendance was taken and there were teachers posted outside with megaphones to prevent students from leaving. And at the end of the day when the classes reconvened for the awards ceremony, there were few, if any students, who had slipped out during the festivities.

And then there were the actual games. And this is what truly amazed me. The girls played against each other first and then the boys took over for the second match. There was absolutely no yelling, no giving blame for lost points, no taunting of the other team. The boys supported their girl counterparts and everyone had a smile on their face. That isn't to say that the competition wasn't fierce. In fact, the level of play was impressive, especially considering that very few have committed to playing with the actual school team. I remember boys in high school just kind of scooping up the ball with their hands, spiking into each other, and complaining that volleyball is a "girl sport." Here, though, the boys were just as good and did the whole "bump, set, spike" routine with great skill. I was also completely thrown by how the laziest/girliest/least interested students tried very hard on the court. There were the "I'm in a band and too cool for anything" sorts, "I just need to pluck my eyebrows while you explain the activity" girls (and boys), and the geeky ones too. No one just stood there looking tortured and no one --- absolutely no one--- got picked on. Each court had a student officiating and students pretty much followed standard rules. There were some controversial moments and both teams would jokingly yell to get the call to go their way, but once the decision was made, the game continued with no arguments or angry outbursts. And of course teams had to lose. Instead of hard feelings, kicking bleachers, and throwing temper tantrums, students laughed it off and cheered anyway. I don't know why all of this was so striking to me, but as I watched these young students handle themselves in a competitive situation, I realized that something in the raising of Japanese children at home and at school is working. Frankly, I was inspired.

The senseis were also given a chance to showcase our fantastic v-ball skills. Actually, the men were quite good and beat their competition, but our opponents rallied and beat us by one point. All in good fun, though. Of course. It's Japan!

And I truly am going to miss those third-years...

p.s. Hey, Regan, remember that hockey puck to the mouth?!


Regan said...

That's exactly what I was thinking you were talking about when you mentioned the volleyball to the mouth!! THat was horrible. I still have nightmares about it.

Carly said...

Wow. I'm amazed.

This is how I played sports in PE: *ducking away* "I'm going to die!!"

Unless it was field hockey - then I was competetive and got thrown out for "high sticking".

Sorry if you had a bad hockey experience. It was probably because of someone like me. haha.

Carly said...

Oh. I "dig" it. Very bad pun.

Rachel said...

Ha! Yes it's definitely a bad pun. I better "serve" up a better one next time. Har har.

Yeah, I was pretty competitive with the hockey bit as well. I was known to give some nasty shin bruises. But I made up for my zeal in hockey with ragball (remember that?). I would stand in the outfield and make dandelion necklaces for our teacher to give to him on my way in to bat. :)