Mississippi Teacher Corps

Friday, November 09, 2007

Taking my students to the Ole Miss football game

Last Saturday, I took 3 of my students to the Ole Miss football game. For those unfamiliar with this event, each fall, the MTC program director gives tickets to one Ole Miss home game to second-years wishing to take their students. Anyway, I had a hard time deciding which 3 students to take, so I took the 3 who earned 100’s for the first nine weeks in my class. This seemed like a fair way to do things, and it just so happens that I really like those 3 kids anyway. So, at 9:30 on Saturday morning, I met Tony, Jasmine, and Dominique (not their real names) in front of the school and ushered them into my car for the drive up to Oxford.

I felt awkward and tense at first. I’d failed to realize that Jasmine and Dominique were already good friends, but neither of them knew Tony very well. Tony is an extremely nice kid, but is shy and a little awkward. To make matters worse, he doesn’t always speak clearly, so I often have to ask him to repeat himself. Jasmine and Dominique chatted in the back seat of my car while Tony sat up front and toyed with his cell phone. I started to feel a little better when I struck up a conversation with Tony about how his father lives in Memphis, and he misses him.

When we first got to Oxford, I asked my students if they wanted to see the square. “The square? Huh? What’s that?” was the response I received. “OK, you’re about to find out,” I said. Once I parked in the square, we stopped at Square Books. At first, when I asked the students if they wanted ice cream or coffee, they were too shy to order anything, but after a few minutes, they caved in and ordered. It didn’t occur to me that some 12 year olds don’t know how caffeine affects them, and Jasmine ended up becoming hyper for much of the day after drinking a cup of coffee. But, as I told her, that was fine by me as long as she didn’t act that way during class (which she of course never does). We took a walk around the square, stopping along the way at a few stores, and I felt a little bad as Tony sheepishly stood in the doorway of the dress store that the two girls had rushed into. Soon, all three of them were talking about how the Square was the best place they’d been, and how they would ask their families to take them back there.

After a walk around the Square, I spent a very long time finding parking, then took a walk around campus (or at least a small part of it) with the kids. I didn’t want to linger long in the Grove; I felt strange around all the Southern aristocrats and made-up girls in stiletto heels and dresses. The students enjoyed the partial tour I gave them of campus and commented that it looked like a really nice school, but were tired after the walk from my car to campus, so we headed to the stadium pretty quickly.

On the way to the stadium, and once in our seats, I ran into a number of other MTC’ers with their students. I had never fully explained MTC to my students and had just told them that my professor for my master’s program had provided the tickets, so they were surprised at being introduced to all these other teachers. “What is this, Take your Students to the Game Day or something?” Jasmine asked. We found our seats, and the girls settled in pretty quickly, grinning and dancing with the introduction music. I was still worried that Tony felt out of place, especially since he was staying quiet, and about 20 minutes into the game, when I took him to get snacks, I asked if he was enjoying the game. “Yes. I’m glad I made 100 in your class,” he said. I was touched.

I felt just as wide-eyed as the kids did at the game. I’d never been to a Division 1 football game before, and this world of marching bands in military formations, cheerleaders, and dance teams was all new to me. I sat outside enjoying the warmth and sometimes chatting with my students, but feeling comfortable enough to sit and watch without the pressure to speak. Tony gradually felt more comfortable with the girls and was joking and chatting with them.

From a few days before the game, a big point of discussion had been where we would go to dinner. I’d told my students that I would let them pick a place and would tell them about some of the places in Oxford, and they were very excited. On the drive down, I’d tried pitching Two Stick because I wanted them to have the chance to try sushi, but none of them seemed to like this idea very much, and Jasmine said she didn’t like a lot of foods. Multiple times during the day, Jasmine had asked if there was a Pizza Hut, and also said she’d love to go to Olive Garden if Oxford had one because it was her favorite restaurant. Though I’d had hopes of convincing my students to eat at one of Oxford’s more exotic locales, in the end I suggested Old Venice, which I told them was a really good pizza place, and the girls literally started clapping. They also kept asking if we could see the Square again after the game. I went to Old Venice with many of the other MTC’ers and their students, and it was a great time. The whole drive home, my students gushed about how it was the best pizza in the world. Jasmine said that she liked Oxford so much that she wanted to stay “til really late!” After dinner, we visited the new chocolate place on the Square, took a brief walk around, and then headed home. On the drive home, the girls were giddy with excitement from the whole day, and though Tony was more subdued, I could tell he was really happy, too. He asked me if I could take them to the game again if they all made 100’s the next nine weeks, and bring even more people because even more people would make 100’s. He said that he felt sorry for the kids who didn’t get to go to Oxford with us. I let the kids take turns playing DJ with my iPod, and that happily entertained them the whole way home. When I dropped the kids off at their houses, they all hugged one another good-bye, and Jasmine and Dominique announced, “We made a new friend today! Tony is our friend!” What a great thing for a shy boy, and I hadn’t even planned it.

I loved taking my kids to the game, and I could tell that they all had a great time. The whole day made me think about how much I will miss these kids when I leave my school. It also made me realize how young they are. These three kids act serious and studious in class every day and are the kind of stellar students that never give teachers any grief, but outside of school, they laughed, joked around, acted slap-happy, and generally had a good time just being kids. I guess that really shouldn’t have surprised me, though. I was exactly the same way when I was in middle school.

Now playing: Soulja Boy- Crank Dat


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