Coach Ashley and I arrived at Mays a half hour before our program. We were told that we cannot use the gym for that day because there is a Parent Café. This is a huge disappointment because it is the last week of basketball and the girls have been wanting to play a real game since we started. We look in the lunch room that we will be using instead and it’s small with tables out, unable to be moved anywhere. The sport and the space constraints were definitely a challenge, but even more telling were some of the events that happened even before programming started.
I think the hardest part about being able to run a successful program at Mays is that the girls seem to not like each other. There is a clear division in the school between groups of girls formerly from Banneker Elementary (the school that closed) and the students originally from Mays Elementary (the Welcoming School)”. Arguments about seemingly silly things are rooted in a search for identity and belonging. For instance, in the bathroom as the girls were changing they were talking about bed bugs. Some girls were saying that bedbugs were always at Banneker and others insisted that the Mays kids brought them. The look of sincerity and intensity on their faces as they were defending their “home schools” was undeniable – they were fighting for their territory, for love for not just a school, but a family, an identity, a sense of connection. I think to constantly have to defend yourself and your old school gets tiring. It’s easier to just avoid those that oppose you. At Girls in the Game though, girls from both these groups are forced to interact. I let the conversation go for a while and then interrupted. I asked the girls how many were Mays and how many were Banneker. It was about half and half. I tried to ask more questions about each of the schools, but the girls lost interest and didn’t want to answer my questions. I think I am going to have to get creative with ways to get them talking about the schools they came from and their experience so far as a part of this mixed school. If we can make Girls in the Game a place where Banneker and Mays girls feel less like opponents and more like a team then I know the girls will get the more out of this program. I want that look that they had on their faces as they defended their old schools- the sincere, passionate love for an old identity- to be transformed into love for sports, for making healthy choices, and most importantly for their teammates.
We have a couple of new girls that came last week and we are working so hard to make sure that they keep coming. I’m worried about one of the new girls, Shania. She is a shy 6th grader who doesn’t talk much to the other girls. Last week she came to me with a headache and said she felt dizzy when she ran around. I asked her if she had eaten that day and she said she had not. When I asked her why not she said she was late to school and didn’t eat breakfast, the lunch they served at school was “nasty” and she didn’t like the after school snack. She said she doesn’t do this all the time, but sometimes it happens. Well, it happened again today. I convinced her to eat the pizza they were serving for snack, but agreed to myself it didn’t look too appetizing. She also reluctantly took a few sips of milk. I asked her if she had food she liked better at home, she shook her head no. However, when I asked would she be eating dinner that night she said yes. I sat with her and talked to her while she slowly ate the pizza and got to know her a little better. If I could have sat with her the whole time and talked I would have, but I had to get to the rest of the girls so I am planning to touch base with her again next week. Walking out of programming together I asked her, “What are you going to do for me this week and especially next Tuesday?” She answered, “I know, I know. I’ll eat”, with a small smile. Just to have someone else in the loop, I have informed the site contact of my concern and they are keeping an eye out for her.
Nicole wasn’t at programming today. We heard her name over the PA asking her to report to the office. I hope she is staying out of trouble.