Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Bond Shared by Fans

How does one explain this unmistakeable bond that occurs when humans share loyalty and a rooting interest for the same professional sports team? It is one of the few examples in life where difference in gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or political party becomes irrelevant. If we share a passion for the same team, we are family.  When the team that we root for wins a championship, the shared euphoria that strengthens our bond, becomes incomprehensible.

As a longtime Philadelphia sports fan I have experienced this on a few occasions; twice with the Flyers and Phillies and once with the 76ers. When these teams won their championships, the exhiliration felt in the Delaware Valley reached unprecedented levels. Millions of fans turned out for celebratory parades. They embraced the success that they truly believed they had an impact on, and they put aside all that might otherwise divide them. Strangers celebrated as family, these moments temporarily frozen in time and reveled in the recent success that the championship had brought to their city.

This past Thursday one of the most loyal fan bases in the nation finally experienced a unique feeling of jubilation that only a championship can bring. Within the past 108 years there had been many failures and bizarre near misses that prevented championship success. (See Steve Bartman). However, the futility experienced by the Chicago Cubs did not sever the ties that bonded their fans, quite the opposite is true.  As the years passed, new generations were added to this suffering yet resilient fan base and their resolve to root for a World Series Champion never wavered.  Game after game they filled the seats at Wrigley Field, (put a visit on your bucket list) they faithfully patronized their favorite watering holes and they wore the phrase, "wait until next year" as a badge of honor.

 Eleven wins during October and November of 2016 changed the fortunes of the Chicago Cubs and their fan base forever.  When Wednesday gave way to Thursday this past week, with the championship secured, tremors were felt that would rock the foundation of this fan base from Cleveland to Chicago. No longer were they united by misery that came from years of futility. On this historic evening, misery would be replaced by an ecstasy that only winning World Series titles can bring.  Once bonded by misery they were now bonded forever by championship glory. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Lunch Bunch

Last year our middle school made some revisions to our schedule across all grade levels that would present new challenges for our students. We added time to our instructional periods, added Spanish as part of the core content team, and went from a 9 period day to one with only 8 periods. Lost as a result of these changes was our Flex period which empowered our students to complete homework, makeup tests and seek extra help from their teachers. Having this period included in their day traditionally eased the transition for our students from fifth to sixth grade.

The challenge that faced our team was providing time in our instructional day to meet the needs of our students that went beyond the instructional class period. The solution evolved organically as dedicated teachers began inviting students to join them for lunch.  An opportunity to build relationships with our students while providing individualized instruction began taking shape. Initially a few students took advantage of the opportunity and then they began inviting their peers. In the meantime a relaxed environment was created where students took advantage of the chance to connect with their peers and their teachers.  Thus the "Lunch Bunch" was born.

Our students demonstrated improvement and were experiencing academic growth because they were willing to buy into this lunch time enrichment opportunity. Their commitment to their learning definitely was paying huge dividends. 

The success of the first year led to a willingness to continue the initiative this year.  Earlier this week I experienced a session with our "Lunch Bunch" in Mr. Hughes's classroom. Students were eating lunch, interacting with peers, working on Math assignments and soliciting the guidance of Mr. Hughes.  I was impressed by the relaxed yet structured environment that Mr. Hughes had voluntarily created. Students were taking advantage of the chance to improve in Math and build relationships with their peers and teachers.  Joyful learning was evident throughout the classroom.

The responsibility of educating today's youth presents monumental challenges in the 21st century. As a sixth grade team leader I am proud of the innovative initiatives implemented by our team to meet these challenges and help our students. The creation of the "Lunch Bunch" is yet another exemplary method, designed to do just that.