When you’re a young white lady teacher in a town that is used to young white lady teachers coming and going, there are days where you do not feel like a part of things. Days when kids are obnoxious, parents can’t remember who you are, and people look at you with a look that says, “Young white lady, why are you here?”
Today was not one of those days.
We had another basketball tournament today, and we entered our boys team and our girls team. The boys had a rough go of it, because they haven’t really practiced together, but the girls did awesome. They won 2 out of 3 games, and they fought for every minute of every game (and have the bruises to show for it!). Plus this is their first tournament in an under-14 age bracket, so they were playing girls who are about to turn 15 when most of them are still 13. Dem girls were biiiig. But our girls were awesome.
The nice thing about it for me was that since I’ve been going to these tournaments for about 4 months now, I know a lot of the people there. Obviously I know my kids, but I also have met their brothers, cousins, and friends. Today this whole group of middle schoolers were there for one reason or another, so the parents and my co-coach and I watched them flirt awkwardly with each other, laughed at their ridiculosity, and joked around with them all day. This one ref who is at a lot of our games came over after the games to give me coaching tips and ask about specific kids, because he’s been watching them all play for 4 months now too. The girls were in a great mood and were lots of fun to be around.
Then afterwards one of the girls’ grandpa held a Bingo to help raise money for a trip to a Native American tournament in Phoenix (which, bummer, I won’t be around for because I’ll be traveling). I went to help out, which was clearly surprising to a couple parents. But hey, I’m usually the only white lady at the tournaments, so what’s being the only white lady at the Bingo? (Hilarious side note: people have asked my co-coach in text messages who “da white lady who comes to da games” is. That’s me.) It was really fun though. Again, I’ve met most of the parents, who are super friendly, and the girls came and sat with me. Every round had a different door prize, and the girls got outrageously excited for candy prizes. Plus I won once! Which got a big laugh.
It was one of the first times where I’ve felt generally like I’m part of things. Part of conversations, rather than listening to them. Joking with the kids and having them joke back, being spontaneously spoken to (gasp!) by the very quiet older brothers, giving coaching advice and having kids actually listen the first time. These sound like small things, but you don’t realize how stressful it is feeling like you have to prove yourself (which you do, to middle schoolers) until, surprisingly, you don’t. Let’s not kid ourselves, I have by no means finished the wary, not-sure-how-I-feel-about-you phase, but perhaps I have won the occasional day of acceptance.
I’m very excited to be going home for the next month. I haven’t seen my parents since Christmas, haven’t felt humidity in longer, and haven’t seen the color green in what seems like forever. But today reminded me yet again why I love this place, why I love these kids, and why I’m happy to be here.