Two Saturdays a go, I saw what special truly means. For three years my National Honor Society students and the students in Y-Club have served as officials for our local Bocce Ball Special Olympics tournament.

Bocce is a great sport for the Special Olympics because people of many different physical abilities can play including those in a wheel chair.

Usually, the Special Olympics in our area doesn't like to use teenagers because they have had problems. However, our students have taken to this event unlike anything I've ever seen. Each Bocce courts requires four students, leadership, patience, and a lot of sweating in the hot sun.

This is truly one of the best projects we've ever done. Although the Special Olympics people have told me that they often have trouble getting high school students to do a good job, we've found it to be the opposite for several reasons:

1) We trained the students well. (The first year, one Saturday for 4 hours!)

2) We ordered special “T-shirts” Face it kids like them.

3) I set expectations clearly and up front.
The first comment (using the “r” word) was handled firmly and sternly the first year. That was four years a go. Never since have we had trouble. The kids know what is expected and love working with the special Olympians.

4) It is not mandatory.
The kids self-select themselves.

5) The Seniors are our leaders.
It is led by the NHS but the Y-Club also participates. We have a Senior running the scorers table with two juniors “in training” as the leader for next year. After they “call a court” for an hour or two, their job is to pass it off to a younger student who has been watching.

6) The adults are there and we praise good behavior.
I am there as well as the other advisor. The headmaster also comes. We watch. We move among the kids. We praise good behavior and privately correct the wrong behavior. We expect a lot and treat the kids professional and expect them to act professionally. We put one person in charge of each court and hold them accountable. They have NEVER let me down!

This tournament had over 200 special Olympians this year and the advisors just gushed about what a great job our students did! They gave up a Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until 2 pm! Wow!

I have truly seen a difference in kids who work with the Special Olympics. They are more tolerant of others. They are more kind and loving. They are more patient. It is vital that students understand that not everyone is the same and that God made all of us!

I am a better person for seeing the best in teenagers. (Take a look at the photos if you want to know more.)

Isn't it funny how us adults who expect and speak the best, get the best out of teenagers?

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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1 comment

Karyn Romeis September 27, 2006 - 9:05 am

What a heartwarming story, Vicki. Please communicate to your students the commendations of this complete stranger (to them) in far away England. They will receive their reward by and by.

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