Thursday, March 16, 2017

March Madness and Today's High School Student

I get asked, quite often: Are high school kids different today? How have the students changed in the 15 years you have worked at St. Ignatius? Do you see a big difference? I'm never sure how to answer that question as I am but one voice; I certainly don't have a definitive answer. Furthermore, I've noticed that many times the person asking the question harbors suspicion, holds presumptions and more. Too often, I have to remind others (and myself) that teenagers are not the enemy. Yes, things have changed and so have teens, but "the big stuff" hasn't. For example, high schools students still care about what their peers think, they want to be understood, relationships are paramount, and they ask the same questions. In fact, the question that I get asked a lot at this time of year is one I have written about before. It's one that I actually appreciate. It's one that I usually say "no" to, unless of course you are in my Sports and Spirituality class. My students this year, five and ten years ago all want to know the same thing: Can we watch the NCAA tournament in class? Ah March Madness. 
At Brophy College Prep in Phoenix
Today's teens have access to technology like never before. Whereas my generation had to ask if they could watch the game on the TV that hung from the ceiling in the corner, today's student can have their teacher stream it from via the digital presenter onto a movie sized drop down screen. They can privately watch the game of their choice on their iPad, phone or personal computer. And, the reality is that today at school a lot of kids many that the tech department at our school made an executive shut it all down. The director wrote the following message to the student body:
In years past, we’ve been able to support allowing students to stream March Madness on our campus, but this year, there are just too many streams going on for our network to continue to support this *and* have a decent internet connection for the rest of the school. 
To this end, we’re actively blocking sites that are streaming March Madness.
I’ve seen a radical uptick in our blocking of VPN sites today. If we see you repeatedly trying to use a VPN site to get around our blocking technology, we will disable your device on the wireless system and you will need to come by the tech office to get your device unblocked. 
I apologize in advance for this draconian response, but our responsibility is to make it possible for teaching and learning to go on here at St. Ignatius… to ensure this, we must keep our internet connection working for everyone. 
If you have questions, feel free to drop me a line or drop by the Tech Center.
I loved reading this message. It was affirming to me that students continue to push limits, in this case, one that I don't see as problematic. I also value that a decision for the betterment of the community was made. This executive order gave kids plenty to gripe about...and they did...but that's good. They're not yet on their own...they're not always free to do whatever they want (I would argue none of us are). Though the world is sometimes at their disposal, at other times it is not....unless however you are enrolled in Sports and Spirituality. Here's how and here's why.
I made a bargain with my students that if a critical mass participated in a class pool, I would devote the first and last ten minutes of class time to watching the tourney. They would need to complete a bracket (that I had a student create), with a $10 entry fee. 

I have to give credit to my former students as THEY were the ones who developed the prototype we now use. I was hoping the winner would make a small donation to Operation Rice Bowl, a school-wide Lenten project, but these young people were much more generous...and creative. The winner earns 50% of the jackpot and is asked to donate the other 50% to a charity of their choice.

Last year's winner, a female varsity lacrosse player asked me if she could donate her earnings to the OneLove Foundation. After informing me of their mission, I asked if she wouldn't mind creating a presentation to inform our class of their work. She told us how she got to know the story of Yeardley Love and what the Foundation meant to her personally. Her classmates were silenced in learning this tragic story and interested in what the organization aims to do. Their website states their mission.
It is the goal of the One Love Foundation to honor Yeardley Love by bringing an end to Relationship Violence by educating, empowering and activating campus communities in a movement for change. We know that, given the chance, Yeardley certainly would have wanted to help.
Thinking of what my student presented, how the class devised a plan for the winner and the winning organization, their appreciation for class time to watch the games and their enthusiasm as the Madness unfolded, I realized if high school kids have changed that much, what I am seeing in Sports and Spirituality isn't for the bad....they are creative, enthusiastic, fun-loving and still interested in things other than school. Some things—like excitement when I say "no homework tonight!" and get a loud cheer—shouldn't change, even when so much in the world around us does. 

By the way, I want to know how many students took up the tech director's office and dropped by the office...or rather, sent a text message. Go Irish

Photo Credits
Yeardley Love

1 comment:

  1. Such great insight, Anne!
    Your students, staff and administrators are so lucky to have you on their team! Go Irish!☘️☘️