Last Sunday, we took a team of girls to a local basketball tournament.  It was put on by a former player, a girl who was on the first sixth grade team that I coached here at this school.  That team probably played somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 games as a sixth grade team, and if I were to rank my favorite teams, they would be at the top without question.  We talked for a while about how surreal it was, her “welcoming” me to a tournament that we had many great memories at.  It’s fun to see those successful people you’ve taught, and know you played a small part in who they are today.  Humbling is probably the better word for it.

This is the first time in a few years that I’ve had girls who’ve wanted to play beyond our regular season (8th graders), so who am I to say no.  We are that school team that just plays.  It’s not AAU or “traveling team”, nope, not at all.  Want to play?  Parents want to bring you?  Well come on! 🙂  We’ve played in two previous tournaments, one getting beat up on pretty well, the other being competitive but not winning, both against the “traveling team” kinds of groups.  This tournament made me nervous because we were the only 8th grade team playing against two 7th grade teams and a 6th grade team.  Why would I be nervous?  Three of my athletic players have gone down with different kinds of injuries, so my team has really morphed into something I wasn’t expecting, this odd combination of girls I’d not always have on the floor together in a regular season situation.  However, you play with who comes, and heck, I’m happy to keep coaching! 🙂

My fears were premature, because in all three games, we really were not challenged.  My biggest concern was the sixth grade team because I’d seen them play before and they were pretty darn good, with all girls able to handle the ball and shoot well.  We simply had more quickness all the way around and overwhelmed them in the end.  The other two games, we were able to push the ball when needed, but also made some good plays in our half court offense as well.  All and all, I was very pleased.  However, it wasn’t so much at the winning three games (though that was VERY nice after the results of our first two tournaments).  It was much more about how this group of kind of random pieces just seems to morph into a pretty tight squad.  Now, of course, we weren’t playing 8th grade teams, and while I’m not sure how we’d have matched up, I’m very positive that against team of our ability level (we just play, we aren’t the year round kind of group), we’d hold our own.  That to me was the success of the entire day, just playing solidly as a team.

What does this have to do with anything on this blog??  Well, we talk testing all the time as educators. All. The. Time.  We MAP test, we FAST test, we use Iowa Assessments, we test lexile levels, oral fluency, comprehension, and I’m sure things I’ve forgotten.  Does this cure what ails us with our education?  Do we feel a sense of “Yes, nailed that test” when we are done with these tests?  Or is it that dread?  The nervousness of “uh oh, now what” that we feel?  I’m not sure.  I certainly am not excited to see these tests show up, nor am I’m always excited to see the results.  Why aren’t we trying to meld our students into a group, a team who works together, who are willing to take risks and fail?  Do these tests do that?  Or do they force us to play it safe?  To not push ourselves too far outside of that bubble comfort zone?  I don’t know.  But as I thought of my team, the smiles on their faces after winning that final game, that’s what I want in my room.  Smiles and laughter and a sense of “we did it” when it comes to the completion of a learning goal.

The question is, how do we get there?  I think, in our district, we are starting to move down the right track.  I like what I see in terms of leadership and thinking outside the box for students.  It’s just a matter of keeping that positive momentum going forward.  Someone will slap a zone or a press on us (or a grumpy parent) and that could all be slowed down or shifted in a manner that’s not the best for kids.  We need to stick with what we know will be best for our students and to keeping staff moving forward and go from there.

So, as we do move forward, remember, education and basketball, they are hard to get away from! 🙂