Last week was Spirit Week at SYIS---this is a great week to celebrate school spirit since the volleyball tournament was on Friday and Saturday. After a week of raising money through Mao Wars, dressing up in costumes, and participating in a pep rally, we were able to discover what true school spirit really looks like. When you're thrown into the fire, how will you respond? True school spirit is not all fun and games--it takes perseverance and a lot of flexibility.
All of the ISC schools came together to compete on Shenyang turf. It is SYIS' responsibility and privilege to host the volleyball tournament every year. Last year, I enjoyed being able to watch our students compete, since I don't get to see them play basketball or soccer at their respective tourneys. Last year, it was so cold, and of course there was no heat yet---it even snowed during the tournament!
In past years, SYIS has rented a big gym at the Sports College in our city. On Friday morning/afternoon, the different teams from around China began to arrive in our city. At noon, some of the teachers who had spent months planning the tournament went to the Sports College to begin setting up for this big event. When they arrived, they learned that there was a planned protest happening at the college. I'm not sure what the protest was about exactly, but I heard that many protests were happening at colleges all over the place in reaction to a drunk driver killing a bunch of students. Maybe that's not true...In any case, we were told that it would not be safe to be at the Sports College that weekend. It's just another lesson in China living. No matter how much you plan and prepare everything can fall apart in five seconds.
Anyway, the bottom line is that, after all the SYIS volleyball teams had loaded onto our school buses to travel to the Sports College and warm up for their games that afternoon, they learned that the tournament would have to be held at the school instead. Emergency! The staff, maintenance, coaches, players, and administration became a flurry of activity, trying to set up courts, food, concession stands, and lights for night games. I'm not sure what we would have done if we hadn't had space on our campus for four courts. I'm not sure what we would have done if it had been raining or snowing (like last year). It makes me shudder to even think about the "what ifs"! Each school spends so much money sending their high school and middle school boys and girls varsity and junior varsity teams to Shenyang. They pay for plane or train tickets, hotel rooms, and meals--it's a pricey ordeal--and to find out a few hours before the tournament starts that the venue has fallen through is enough to make the steadfast run in panicked circles.
Just as the other schools started arriving at SYIS for the tournament, the water in our building stopped running. It was like one blow after the other....but SYIS kept plodding forward--talk about persevering through trials!
Our principal and amazing maintenance crew rigging some lights that they were able to find before the sun set on Friday.
Hosting a tournament means that you naturally want to put on a good face for the other schools. Everything should be well organized, look nice, have great facilities, and provide whatever the players need. I think some of the students were embarrassed that the tournament was going to be held at the school. I think that some of the students felt ashamed of our facilities. For these sentiments which they have communicated quite clearly, I say--"SHAME ON YOU!" I was proud that we had enough space to hold four courts. I was proud that we were able to rig lights up on such short notice. I was proud that there was an area for concessions and an area for lunch and dinner to be served and eaten. I was proud that we had an activity room for people to practice in and a beautiful auditorium with lots of special FX for the awards ceremony. Although we literally had zero time to prepare for a tournament at school, it went well. The show went on without a hitch and I took pride in our school's resourcefulness and flexibility. I am ashamed of students were ashamed of our school. I ashamed that they should feel like our staff and maintenance crew are anything but top-notch. I am ashamed that they should brush aside the smoothness with which the venue transition took place with such arrogance and self-centered vanity.
It was a moment of TRUE school spirit--when we could have been taken down, discouraged, disappointed, and defeated, the people at our school pulled together and made things work. They were flexible and had good attitudes about the whole would-be-catastrophe. Talk about looking at situations through providential lenses--all things definitely work together for good. I was very impressed with everyone--If I had been the principal, athletic director, or one of the coaches or maintenance crew members I am not sure if I could have showed such patience and flexibility---but He granted lots of grace this weekend!
Another blessing was that the weather was absolutely gorgeous! For whatever reason, we had amazing weather the two days of the tournament. Instead of being below freezing and overcast, it was in the 60's and sunny! What an enormous and unexpected blessing!
Our teams played relatively well! Middle school boys and girls teams both won first place! The high school boys and girls teams also played really well and placed in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th places. Overall, they played very well and we were so proud of our teams! Adam got to help coach the high school varsity boys team. He did an Air Alert program with them to increase their jumping height. You could definitely tell a difference between our high school varsity boys team and the other schools' teams! We had a lot of power, a lot of height, and a lot of strength!
Our cute music teacher cheering for her choir students who also were on volleyball teams.
One of the special points for me was seeing some of my old students from student teaching in Chengdu. There were three boys and three girls playing on middle school teams that had been in the fifth grade class that I was placed in for my final student teaching experience. They had grown so much! I was able to get a picture with some of the girls--but the boys were too sad to take a picture with me. They had just lost the championship game in their division.
It was fun to get to show off our facilities to the other schools--for although our buildings are in need of a fresh coat of paint and are surrounded by factories, they are the structures which house a community that has become very close to my heart. Appearances matter, but perseverance and 'get it done' attitudes are the winners at the end of the day. We may not have beautiful gardens like Chengdu, or stellar buildings like Tianjin, but I was incredibly proud of what we had to offer during the volleyball tournament. I hope that the students will go away with good memories from this event and that the other school's will empathize with our last minute emergency venue change.
Lovely Shenyang ladies and the cutest little guy, watching games on Saturday.
Adam, walking on the wall in front of our school--the volleyball team that he helped coach took a picture on top of the wall...wish I could share those pictures because they are awesome!