Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Random Thoughts and Musings

(photo by The Gaston Gazette)
This past Saturday, Gaston Day School and Gaston Christian School participated in "The Battle for the Bell." The event involves nine athletic contests and whichever school wins the most gets to keep the Gaston Day School Bell for a year--so winning the Bell entitles either school to bragging rights for at least a year. Coach Field and I came up with the idea of the Battle of the Bell last year, pitched it to our friends at Gaston Christian, and everyone liked it. Our hope was that the Bell would become an important symbol and source of the two schools' friendship and healthy rivalry. Last year in the inaugural event, the two schools tied. Gaston Day School therefore retained the Bell.

This year Gaston Christian hosted the competition, and every contest that I attended was incredibly exciting and close. Yes, Gaston Christian prevailed 6-3 in the overall competition and, for the first time, they won the Bell. Congratulations to them and to athletes from both our schools who competed so hard and so well!!

No one is more competitive than I am--possibly with the exception of Athletic Director Casey Field. The prospect of reclaiming our Bell makes me look forward to the next year's Battle for the Bell. 
But--and I know this may sound hard for some people to understand--it's good that Gaston Christian won the Bell. Their victory makes next year's competition even more important and exciting. Now we have an honest-to-goodness rivalry, and we have got to figure out a way to bring our Bell back to its home!! I sure hope we win it back next year, don't you?? Won't it be sweet when we do!!

On a completely different front--I told you this was random thoughts and musings--the GDS administration is thrilled with the feedback we are receiving from parents about our efforts to achieve balance and proper limits in student life. Many of our parents obviously share our concern that Gaston Day School be a fun place to learn. That doesn't mean that the academics are going to be any less rigorous. But it does mean that all GDS educators are trying to be more efficient with their teaching and eliminate anything that is just busy work. Thanks to those of you who are recognizing the difference this is making in our students lives. Parents, special thanks to those of you who are encouraging your children to be focused in their studies at home and careful not to spend too many hours texting and tweeting (Yes, I said "hours." The average American high school student spends 2.5 hours a day texting!! That doesn't count other forms of screen time. You can get a lot of homework, recreation, and family time done in 2.5 hours! You can even sleep more.) In all seriousness, teachers and parents have to work together to encourage our students to set priorities and use their time wisely.  

Is there really such a thing as too much homework? Yes. Yes. Yes. Is there really such a thing as
spending too much time doing your homework? Yes. Yes. Yes. Does texting and other social media devices consume great amounts of student time that could be spent more productively on other things? Yes. Yes. Yes. 

If GDS students really are going to be well prepared for college, then part of that preparation is teaching them how to study efficiently and effectively. There really is such a thing as studying too much or too long. If your children are doing that consistently, then they need to be talking to their teachers and figuring out why. Study skills are just as important as content mastery.

O.K. No more preaching from the Head of School. But the conversation about balance and limits is not going to go away. I will be talking more about it in the future. But enough already for right now.

Have you seen the Henry Baseball Field? Oh my goodness, the grass is down on the infield and the whole complex looks spectacular!!! Wonder who will hit the first home run? Strike out the first batter? Complete the first double play? I can't wait to find out.

In closing, remember: Gaston Day School, a great place to learn and have fun! Talk to you soon.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ping Pong Challenge

How I came to play Vincent Liu in ping pong on the Pamela Kimbrell Warlick Visual and Performing Arts Center stage in front of most of the school's student body yesterday (September 2, 2015) requires a little explaining. First, Vincent and Tom Wang are both eleventh grade international students from China, where ping pong is one of the most popular sports, and both are fine players. Vincent's father donated a ping pong table to Gaston Day School so that Vincent and Tom could start a ping pong club, which is exactly what they did. Perhaps not surprisingly, Vincent and Tom have emerged as the two best ping pong players on the GDS campus. 

I too am a ping pong player and, at one time, was pretty good. One of the few individual championships I have ever won was in graduate school program in which I entered a ping pong tournament and won it all among a fairly large field of students from a consortium of graduate schools. Through the years, I have continued at times to play lots of ping pong, and then go for long stretches in which I do not pick up a paddle. One of the places I have played annually over the last few years is at the Junior-Senior Retreat in Valle Crucis Episcopal Conference Center, which has two ping pong tables. I have taken great pride in announcing to the students upon arrival that I would challenge whomever was the best ping pong player to a match. Until about three years ago, I remained undefeated in my challenge. I probably should have quit while I was ahead. 

Recently, word reached me that Vincent and Tom were the real deal, and they wanted to play me. The ping pong table resides in Wade Glaser's classroom, and I decided to play some with Mr. Glaser as a warm up. The games were very competitive, and Wade told me he could barely score a point on either Vincent or Tom. Uh oh.....

Finally, I got a chance at this year's Junior-Senior Retreat to volley with both of them. Things seemed pretty even. But, ominously, each of the boys explained that they were playing without their personal, custom paddles. I do not own a ping pong paddle. 
Dean Lutkus concocted the idea of the challenge match. He is always coming up with great ideas to create school spirit, and he reasoned that seeing either Tom or Vincent beat the Head of School would be exciting. He kept the event secret, and the table was placed behind the curtain on stage. Most of the school was assembled as the curtain rose on me and Vincent with Sparty the School Mascot holding both of our hands aloft in anticipation of crowning a new champion. The theme music from Rocky played in the background. 

Are you ready for the anti-climax? Vincent is much better than me and he beat me 15-9. At one point, I pulled to within two with a score of 9-11, but, alas, it was all downhill from there. Yes, Vincent had his personal, custom paddle. 

The student body really seemed to enjoy our match.

Now, for maybe the best part of all. After the match and later that morning, I went to the lunchroom. A Pre-K student came up to me and with utter and complete sincerity said the following to me, and I quote: "Dr. Rankin, I'm sorry you lost at ping pong. Keep working hard and practicing. You will get better."

Some parent or teacher should be really, really proud. That Pre-K students has already figured out compassion, encouragement, and resiliency. That's the kind of school this is. 

Click the time lapse video to watch all the ping pong action.  (video by Sidney Bing)