Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Quirk!

I've talked a lot about acronyms, paradigm shifts and pedagogical term evolution over the last five dozen blogs, but I'm relieved to say that there are fewer politically incorrect faux pas that need to be skirted, or directly avoided, in the land of the gifted.  

Last year, I taught an entire semester around the theme "Freaks, Geeks, and Nerds."  The kids in the room were fine with it.  Others, on the outside, who heard of the topic were less than enthusiastic, fearing that my class was breeding increasing bullying and hatred for an historically picked-on classification of students.

Thanks to Numb3rs, Scorpion, and The Big Bang Theory, it's marginally cool to be the smart kid these days.  Add to that the value of the blue-shirted Geniuses at the Apple Store -- or knowing anyone that can de-virus a computer on a weekend -- and it's pretty easy to celebrate the brain -- even if it's dwelling in a quirky package that might have been the focus of ridicule in a previous generation.


The Te@chthough Challenge for today:

Nov 2 What is one small delight in the day that you always look forward to?

As I answer these prompts, I'm doing my best to not jump on the bandwagon of the obvious.  Ask any high school student, or teacher, what the best time of day is, chances are that lunch or the ringing of the bell at dismissal will rank in the top three.  So I went deeper.  (And I've also waxed poetic about my love of my lunch table gang in my most viewed blog, EVER).  So what is my small delight?

The QUIRK!

The best part about the quirk is that unlike lunch or the dismissal bell, its arrival is unpredictable.  Working in Giftedland, its daily arrival is a guarantee. 

About ten years ago, the Quizbowl coach resigned.  Honestly, I don't really remember who preceded me, and I knew NOTHING about Quizbowl, but my love of Jeopardy! and gifted kids had me succumb when Kevin first approached me.  They didn't really need a coach, he assured me, just someone to organize things and be the official contact and the supervisor in the room, should they ever find time to actually practice.  Since I'd do anything to foster independent interest and study, I readily agreed.

We were awful.  Really awful, under my reign.  I'd try to schedule practices over the next few years, but the reality is that Quizbowl is pretty low on the totem pole of extracurricular priorities, and the members of QB are traditionally also involved in time-consuming activities like Performing Arts and Marching Band, along with at least one sport.  Add to that the length of the QB season - September - April, and you can see the problem.  I registered for the lottery at the local NBC affiliate, WGAL, to  compete on Brainbusters, and we were chosen to compete almost every year.

I started questioning my faith in the QB team before my last Brainbusters' taping when one mother asked me in the lobby, "If they win tonight, when do they tape again?"

Honestly, the thought that they would even WIN had never crossed my mind.  The kids didn't seem to mind their ranking, and agreed that QB is something you do for the love of the game, rather than the accolades.  (Or so we said, valiantly.)

Two years ago I had to resign as coach while my husband and I were caring for my mother in law suffering from end-stage colon cancer.  My lunchbuddy, Seth, accepted the scepter to carry forth the team.  This week, they taped Brainbusters. 

So where's the quirk?  Seth is an ardent supporter of the bow tie.  This year's team is all male, and he (or they) decided that their "thing" this year would be that they would all sport hand-tied bow ties.  Seth provided loaners, and for at least a week before the filming these guys were practicing.  One, in particular, used the last 2 minutes of class to practice in the mirror mounted inside my closet door, with a class full of classmates either supporting, mocking, or wondering about his efforts.

I'm not sure when the airing of their episode is, nor has the team revealed how they did during their on-air match.   I can confidently say that each and every one of them TIED. (Get it?)

So, yes, The Quirk is the best part of my day.  It's discovering that there is someone in my midst who knows nearly a thousand digits of pi, or actually celebrates Pi Day as a family with noisemakers, hats, and - err- pie.  It's actually being reduced to a teary-eyed state when I see a student finding delight in something I had the gall to consider uninteresting.    It's realizing that the next big weekend that everyone is looking forward to is a History Day competition, or seeing the astonished excitement on the face of a middle school girls who just realized that they had spent 20 minutes talking to "a sweet old man who loves Eleanor Roosevelt as much as (they) do," after talking to a panel of judges during an NHD presentation.

The Quirk is the fodder for memories, and a major motivation for me.  It is undefined, unexpected, and the small delight found in every single day.