When I turned on the TV yesterday there was Canada playing Brazil in World League men’s volleyball. Brazil, a perennial world power and current world number one and Canada, with Fred Winters and Josh Howatson of Victoria playing starring roles. Time flashed back to the days of high school volleyball in Victoria and Claremont vs. Oak Bay. I was reminded not just of the roles that coaches played in the lives of these “kids” but how our lives as teachers and administrators are richer for having spent time with these young adults.
As a secondary teacher and principal, I spent a lot of time in the hallways with students. Some of the students I came to know went on to play major league baseball, some went on to careers in the arts, some became Rhodes Scholars and some represented Canada on the world stage. When I watched Ryan Cochrane touch the wall to win bronze for Canada at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, I wasn’t really watching one of the greatest swimmers in the world, I was watching the 15 year old boy that I once championed in an awards committee so he could be recognized for his talent.
What a gift we are given when we spend our days in the midst of so much potential. It is a joy simply to watch these young adults grow. Regardless of who they were at the time, they needed guidance, sometimes correction and sometimes just to sit back and admire. We knew they had great potential and if there was frustration at times, it was only because we wanted the very best out of all of them.
Greatness, however, isn’t always the captain of the volleyball or basketball team. It isn’t always the Olympic star or the one who captures the world stage. There are many champions in our midst and, of all the students I ever knew, it was those who overcame great odds to simply graduate or survive their life circumstances who captured my heart, my gratitude, and my respect. They were (and are) the ones that I know were well served in public education and while I’m not sure I’ll see them on national TV, I know that they went on to live very successful lives and to make a solid contribution to society.
Our schools are full of greatness as we know. It walks the halls in the form of athletes, academic stars, artists, and sometimes, as those students for whom just coming to school and furthering their education is a major accomplishment. The students within our walls enrich our lives in so many ways. Primarily, the joy comes by simply watching these young adults succeed now or in the future.
I sat on the edge of the couch at match point. All afternoon, I had been watching Captain Fred, Setter Josh and a 6’ 10” monster named Gavin Schmitt who pounded 33 points home for Canada in the match. In the end, when Brazil hit the ball long and Canada won I was so proud. I was proud for these students that I knew and for all those with whom we share our lives.
Not many people in society can say that they regularly “hang out” with Hollywood stars, professional athletes, Olympic medalists, Rhodes Scholars, or world famous artists. Want to do this in your life? It’s rather easy. Simply travel on down to your local public high school. They’re in there somewhere. Likely they’re a little concerned about their peer group, working at their courses like everyone and perhaps they’ve had a tiff once and a while with mom and dad. They’re just a bunch of “kids” but watch out, they’re going to change the world.
You just watch.