Feb 16, 2007

Mountain Top Moments

Mt. Tapachou as seen from the grounds of the Whispering Palms School in Navy Hill, Friday, February 16, 2007.

This week it was all about the mountain top moments. . .moments of great success after grueling effort, and persistent commitment. You might say it all began with my comrade Grant Grave's triumphant ascent of the mountain you see pictured above this past Sunday. You can read his inspiring account at his blog. Just click on the link to his blog at the bottom of this page. From there it was the tireless effort of one teacher to realize her vision of a memorable Valentines Banquet for the kids, kids finding their own inspiration and motivation to create and learn, the premiere of a TV show that many of us worked long and hard on, and a basketball team that finally won their first game after a season in the cellar. This week was all about the reward that can be won if you just keep trying and never give up. . .

The referee.

The Game

It has been a very busy week. About mid-week my postive outlook began to flag, as overwhelmed as I was by the sheer amount of “stuff” to do. We had rehearsals every night from Sunday through Tuesdays from 6 P.M. to 8 P.M. preparing for our dinner show fundraiser this weekend. Wednesday, we had one merciful night off, and then Thursday we had our full dress rehearsal, a performance for the kids at the SDA School for their Valentines Banquet.

Herewith a few snapshots of a busy week:

Our school lunchroom transformed. Missy Chamberlin, our fundraising coordinator and human dynamo, did a fantastic job, pulling the whole thing off practically single-handedly. She conceived the decorating scheme, put the kids to work to help pull it all together, made the food, and tirelessly marketed it to the grades 5-9 to encourage them to attend. Well done Missy!

Grant Graves in character as the arrogant, smarmy, ex-football hero Dickie Morgan in the dress rehearsal for our murder mystery dinner theater, Class Reunion. The official production is Sunday evening, February 18 at the Hafa Adai Hotel in Saipan's tourist district.

One event that I did not get any pictures of to my severe disappointment was the premiere of the pilot episode of “State of Liberty” the TV show I acted in this past fall. It was held at the Saipan Grand Hotel at the “V” Lounge. I got there late as it was the same night as the dress rehearsal for our dinner show, so I missed the “red carpet” and the first quarter of the screening, but what I saw looked really good. I felt a bit self-conscious seeing myself on the screen, but at the same time a little vain too, wondering when my NEXT scene would be and if anything got left on the cutting room floor! At any rate I was part of a large and talented ensemble cast and if their were any “stars” they were Dan, who was also the director who had some really funny scenes, Lie Hua, the Chinese ingĂ©nue who had some of the most emotionally demanding scenes and did a fantastic job, and the island of Saipan itself, which was on full, glorious display throughout the show. The show had more the feel of an independent film than the beginnings of a TV series, and it is something I think that all of us can very proud of. I hope we’ll get the chance to do more and that we can get some interested backers who can provide funding to keep the show going. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a copy soon so that I can share it with friends here on Saipan and back in the Mainland this summer.

So after the premiere there’s a lot of congratulating and of course seeing a lot of my fellow cast-mates who I hadn’t seen in awhile. So we all lined up on the red carpet after for a picture, and I’m feeling very Hollywood, and Barbara has the camera and I’m thinking “I can’t WAIT to post this on the blog. . .” and the camera batteries are dead. So much for the picture for posterity! Ah, well. . .

You know, a lot of the progressive thinking in education says that if you give kids the chance to learn and explore in their own learning style they will learn so much more and do amazing things. Well, I’ve always been kind of old-fashioned and a bit of skeptic, and I always thought. . .nah, I leave these kids to themselves they won’t do ANYthing. Well, my 7th/8th grade Geography routine was getting old—Go through the pages in the book on the geographic region, show a video on the focus country, several days of lecture on the focus country, followed by review and test. It was time to try something new. . .something more radical. So I came up with a list of seven basic objectives for learning about Japan, divided the kids into groups and told them they needed to devise a project that included something visual, auditory, kinesthetic (some kind of physical activity that they either did or had the class do during a presentation), and reading/writing. There was something for everyone. I listed a few suggestions for each category but other than that they were on their own. And this is what they come up with:

A model of a traditional Japanese home contrasted with the skyline of a modern Japanese city. Note the cherry blossoms!

A massive model of the Tokyo Government Building in downtown Tokyo constructed out of cardboard. Below is a photo of the actual building.

A Japan display and a relief map of Japan made of modeling clay.

I’m so proud of my students! They worked really hard, every day—with only a few exceptions, I never had to get on any of them to stay on task during the daily work sessions that went on for several weeks. The kids needed more time than I’d originally allotted and I extended the due date by about a week and a half, but the kids weren’t procrastinating at all.

Of course, I wondered, did the kids actually learn anything. . .or did they just make a bunch of neat, artsy projects but have no idea what Mt. Fuji is? Well, during the first group’s presentation this past Friday it was clear that, at least so far, the kids learned a lot. There presentation was very well done. . .they covered all the objectives thoroughly and in addition to their displays did a “Japanese Talk Show” about Japanese culture, did a class quiz with prizes about Japan, taught us some Japanese words and phrases, and even took us outside to play “The Fat Man Who Tripped” which is the Japanese version of red light/green light.

So now what do I do for our next Geography unit? How will I. . and they. . top this?

Our first group of 7th and 8th graders make their presentation on Japan. Note their highly detailed and beautifully colored timeline of the history of Japan on the board behind them

Friday afternoon I volunteered to ref at our boys junior varsity basketball game. I’ve coached in the past, but this year other teachers took on coaching duties and most of the time I’d just show up when I could to cheer on the team (which isn’t often due to my tutoring schedule). But Fridays are free and Jari and Heather, the two coaches, asked me to referee the game and I agreed.

What a privilege to ref over our teams first victory of the season! (and I assure you, it had nothing to do with me!) Our team are all new to playing basketball competitively and it has shown. We’ve suffered some pretty disheartening losses. We’ve never endured a complete shutout but we’ve come perilously close (try 70-4, just last Friday). But our team is a good-natured one and they’ve taken even the most brutal beatings with a grin and a shrug before heading right back out for more. Well, finally playing against the Whispering Palms School (who had already beaten us once) the boys got their mojo going and won their first game 31 to 27. And they did with only five players! They took it in the same easy-going, happy-go-lucky style that they shouldered their losses. These boys are out to have fun, win or lose, and that’s what it’s all about.

There's the tip-off! We're the boys in blue.

In the heat of the action: That's me in the foreground running to keep up with game.

Hands out! The boys play "D"

They steal the ball and head down the court. . .

. . .where they sink another basket. Our boys were especially good at the outside shots. We sunk quite a few three-pointers in the course of the game.

The boys in blue huddle with one of their coaches, Ms. Jari Carmona

That's me! Making the calls!


Melissa Simms said...

Hey Sean, I had a GREAT time last night at the "Looneyville High School Reunion"! You guys all did great, I was very impressed, and I look forward to all your performances! It was great to meet you.

Mr. Grant said...

great blog. I liked the mountain top advice. Never give up. It's something I needed to read this am. Thanks

Ken & Crystal said...

Sean, nice action pics of the game! Looked like a fun one!

Mom said...

Sean, I'm trying again to leave a comment. See if it goes through this time.

Maaan, now I understand why you keep going back to Saipan year after year. What a life! I think you've hit your stride there, too. Loved the spa experience, and lived vicariously through the "capture the flag" games. Such fun.

Hang on...we'll be coming to visit one of these days, believe it or not.

Love you both....