What if the kids are bored? What if the other staff members don't like it? What if I don't do a good job? What if nobody wants to come back?
I take a deep breath and glance back at the awesome picture I put on my title slide. It's one of my favorites, with me as squad leader in the middle of a proud hats-off during my last year in the OSU Marching Band. I glance out across our club members, half-glad there aren't too many and half-wishing there were more today. I think back to my colleague's encouraging reply after I'd sent him my slides yesterday. Okay. Go.
A few minutes later, blood is pounding through my body as hard as when I dove so deeply into creating my slides this weekend that several hours somehow disappeared. I can feel the rush of marching again as I explain how every incredible moment in uniform was built on innumerable hours of diligent, intense, relentless practice
. How every roar of the crowd came from countless choices of intentional discomfort and sacrifice: 2-5 hours a day, every day, all summer, repeatedly executing precise fundamentals with militaristic precision. In the heat. In the rain. When I was exhausted. When I was sore. When I wanted to sleep in. Analyzing every movement with a running checklist in my brain. Starting every time with the most basic elements of posture and in-place movements, even when I could have done them in my sleep, because I didn't want to do anything on default. Woody Hayes said that "you're either getting better or you're getting worse," and I wasn't about to get worse.
I run my fingers over the now-taped-up spine of my old spiral notebook and brush its coarse, battered cover against my palm before I pass it to a student. The E-7 notebook. Covered in quotes to inspire myself on the hard days and filled with precious tidbits of feedback from the mentor who would go on to become one of my best friends
. My journey to earning the spot reserved for the best marcher in my row, to make sure that I wouldn't get complacent, to keep myself truly getting better every day. Just holding it gives me shivers, 15 years later.
All those hours on the field, devouring feedback after every drill, scrawling notes before jumping back on the line and snapping back to attention for more. Conversations with my friend about hard work, courage, leadership, and life, as we built the trust that was so essential for my growth. The determination with which I cut up the descriptions from our fundamentals packet and rewrote his feedback under each section to study, memorize, and turn into a mental checklist that ran through my head every time I marched. Back straight, horn straight, eyes ahead, legs up, toes strained downward, march "to the wall", don't dip shoulder, don't flash early, relax neck, throw head back, slam back down, tense shoulders, "hit the table", don't dip, snap leg up...
It's surreal to stand in front of a classroom now, so far removed from those days, and see colleagues and students flipping through those tattered pages. I feel like they can finally see who I am, now that they can see where I came from. This
is what I mean when I say I'm hardworking. This
is the culture of challenging support, trust, and accountability that I dream of recreating in my classes and in our school.
"Did you guys see what it takes to become the elite of the elite?" the colleague in charge of our club jumps in. He starts to tie my ideas to his hopes for our future discussions and gives me a fist bump, and my blood and breath begin to find their way back to a normal pace.
"I can use this with my classes, right?" As we scurry to class, one colleague excitedly waves the planning worksheet
I led the group through.
"I was starting to write up something as you were talking, and then you had it made for us!" another colleague declares. "And wow, those old notes of yours... how do you even learn how to take 22 1/2 inch steps?!" We giggle as I try to explain using maximum toe point to train your muscles to hit the yardline precisely with the ball of your foot every 8 steps. "I think we should keep checking in with our plans all year!" she continues, and I feel hope floating from my toes to my curls.