Slice of Life, Chapter 13

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

Duck! There is a snitch flying over your head. But don’t duck too fast or you’ll get creamed by a bludger. And then there is also the quaffle to avoid as the chaser is moving fast towards the goal with just one thing in mind: score.

Phew!

Standing in the middle of our field of Quidditch is dangerous work but as the “coach” of a fledgling team, grounded perhaps by lack of magic but wound up by the chance to play a magical game, I am trying to keep track of three or four different layers of the game going on at once. The beater is trying to nail the opponents (with a soft ball) to knock them out of play for five seconds; the chasers are weaving in and out of people, attempting to score on the keeper in the goal; and the seekers have their Quidditch cups raised high in the air, moving to scoop the flying snitch (ie, foxtail) as it floats through the air after a release from the sideline launchers.

I’m barking out advice — “go for the corners — the corners! — good!” — and encouraging my team — “excellent block … now find the open player … that’s it!” — and singing praises for the entire group — “you guys are fantastic out there!”

It’s crazy, I tell you. And a whole load of fun.

This week officially begins Quidditch season for our sixth graders, who will compete in a day-long tournament in front of the entire school in April. It’s not all about the winning. Not exactly. It’s about teamwork and cooperation and good sportsmanship and physical movement. It’s about coordination and following the action on many levels. It’s about multi-tasking in a physical way. It sometimes is too much for even me to track and I’ve been known to nurture a headache at the end of the day. But the kids just eat it all up.

Our game of Quidditch was first designed and implemented by a student who wanted to bring her love for the concept of Quidditch in Harry Potter to the school. This was about eight years ago now, and our physical education teacher has worked to improve the game every year. All students — even my most needy and disabled students, everyone — are in the mix, getting involved and being part of the team effort. No one gets left out.

Yesterday, I watched from the sidelines as some of my stronger athletic students went out of their way to help some of the not-so-athletic students on the floor. I saw a team starting to gel and I saw our class coming together in a new way. There were no Quidditch hogs on the court yesterday.

I think about this as I remember two students in particular. The first, the most shy and fragile student I think I have ever taught, is on the sidelines, tossing a snitch into the field. That is a major victory in itself. The second student, who has Asperger’s and is diabetic, is running, yes running, down the court as a chaser. A teammate tossed them the quaffle and they catch it and toss it towards the goal. This, too, counts as a major victory. It was more movement and integration into physical activities than I have seen in a long time from either of them. We could quit right now and declare the season a success.

Here is a basic scheme of what our Quidditch Court looks like (and if you click on the photo, it will bring you to a Flickr site with written description overlays on the picture itself of various positions).

quidditch field

Peace (in play),
Kevin

PS — I know it’s not about winning but my class won the tournament last year for the first time and it was pretty exciting. Our team name was Arctic Shock! The kids are working on brainstorming a name for this year’s team.

9 Comments
  1. Kevin, I feel the excitement of the game, almost as if I was right there. What a great idea to bring to the school physical education the action of that game from the movie Harry Potter.

  2. The power of a book to ignite the imagination! What an awesome legacy that one student shared with her school! These are the stories the public needs to hear!

    About NWP, I wish I could take the summer institute. We are a year round school and I actually love teaching in the summer (administration goes on vacation lol) so, alas I need to wait on that one. But, I *LOVE* my once a month writers cadre. Many thanks to your wife for going to Washington on NWP’s behalf!

  3. Well it isn’t shoe shopping but it does sound like a great way to be entertained and I love the teamwork thing. That maybe the most important lesson we can give our students – being part of a team and watching out for one another.

  4. Your sixth graders are quite creative and learning so much!!! As you say, “It’s not all about the winning. Not exactly. It’s about teamwork and cooperation and good sportsmanship and physical movement. It’s about coordination and following the action on many levels. It’s about multi-tasking…” These are the other skills we can teach that will take our kids through life no matter the work.

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