In addition to my teaching responsibilities I also coach the Academic Team. The Academic Team is basically a small group of students that take part in quiz competitions at area high schools, colleges, and even televised competitions. Today we traveled to Richmond to take part in the first round of the Battle of the Brains which brings together schools from around Virginia. We also take part in It’s Academic which is recorded in Washington, D.C. in April.
At first I resisted the assignment when I was asked to take it on last year. Not only did I not want to give up more free time, I also did not want to take part in a trivia competition. The idea of memorization simply for the sake of regurgitation rubbed me the wrong way. I couldn’t be more pleased that I stuck with it. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the students, and more importantly, it gives certain students an outlet where they can feel comfortable and are able to shine in their area of competency. Every student needs this kind of outlet and self-satisfaction. Today we won our first round in a very close contest. It’s a four-person team and two of our students took part in their first competition. Needless to say a televised performance can be very nerve racking. We had a great ride home and had a sense that this season may be more than just a rebuilding year.
The other aspect of this that I enjoy is the chance to work with boys who have an intellectual proclivity. While my school has instituted an academically rigorous curriculum we have not done a good job encouraging our male students. To put it simply, it isn’t "cool" to display your intelligence or show intellectual curiosity at my school if you are a boy. I have yet to figure this out, but I see it everywhere. For example, I organize a speakers’ series which involves outside guests every other week during our lunch hour. These are informal talks and attendance is not mandatory and while the program has been around now for three years the audience is made up predominantly of girls. Keep in mind that I am not suggesting that the boys at our school are not intelligent or do not earn respectable grades; for some reason they have difficulty acknowledging their intellectual curiosity in a way that is publicly visible. This growing gap between boys and girls has been a popular theme in recent years in the news.
Academic Team is one way to fill this niche where they can revel and express themselves in a way that is safe and enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, I love the thrill of the victory, but knowing that this outlet is filling an important gap at our school is reward enough.