Sunday, October 4, 2015

A dual duel post.

This week my posting will be evenly split between excellent education and musings about period fencing.  To find only the fencing portion of this record, skip down a bit!  If educational triumphs interest you, read on from here:

[Education]  On Weednesday the basement of the Baxter Academy's York Street facility flooded.  This was surprising (all of Portland for a block on either side of Commerical Street was surprised that day...) but not tragic.  We got all the students safely onto buses and homeward bound.  We took a look at the damages and caused them to be dealt with in appropriate ways.  What this *did* mean was that our school was closed both Thursday and Friday.  So we all took the days off and binged watched back episodes of The Flash, right?

Wrong.  We grabbed that opportunity and ran with it.  We did education right.

See, we, the 9th grade team, knew we would be expected to get something out there for our kids to do.  Everyone at Baxter expects that obligation.  But we took the chance to do more, to go deeper.  We created this assignment.  In it, we asked the kids to research and gather data on tide levels and rain events in Portland history, graph that data in a program with which we've been working at school, and then make a claim, based in their evidence, about how the pattern of rainfall or tide level is changing in Portland over time and what might have caused the flooding at Baxter.

In essence, we had the kids take a real event that powerfully affected them, research its ramifications and causes, take data about it, graph some of that data and then connect that research to the initial event.  The assignment had them hitting standards for Math, Science and Humanities, and they did it while away from school because of the very event they were researching.

This is good work.  From me, from my team and from our students.  Now we need to go dry out the walls downstairs.

[Fencing]  There is a competition this coming weekend called the 'King's and Queen's Fencing Championship' in Massachusetts.  Not a real King and Queen.  In fact, friends of mine who are also members of the SCA, an organization dedicated to re-creation of Medieval and early Renaissance arts and culture.  But a real swordfighting competition.  Round robin pools at the beginning of the day which will end with 16 combatants in a double elimination tournament.  I am a capable man with a rapier (we use period rapiers and armor to the extent that safety allows) and I think I could do well.  But I have a problem

I couldn't fulfill the duties incumbent on the winner of the tournament.  There's a lot of travel involved and my family and work keep me nearer to home most weekends.  This means I'd compete in the round robin pool but I'd remove my name from the 16, if it got that far.  (The organizers ask that anyone not able to carry out the obligations attendant to winning let them know at the beginning of the tourney for just this reason.)

However, there's a new award in this organization, one that recognizes fencing prowess and service to that particular art.  It's a pretty high level award for this group (think like an Oscar, or the American League Pennant, or the Stanley Cup, but for sword geeks).  I find that I want it.  And coming to terms with that desire is hard.

See, I want to be a better fencer so that I'm a better fencer.  I want fencing to get better in the SCA because I believe that will make the SCA better.  And I would keep doing that work whether there were the prospect of a high-level award or not.

But now that there *is* this high level award, I have begun to question all of my motives.   Am I teaching this lesson to help this person or to be *seen* helping this person?  Am I at this event fighting to enjoy fighting or to be seen to be improving as a fighter?

I am considering avoiding entry in the tourney entirely and simply serving as a rules and safety judge (we call them 'Marshals').  And even then I wonder: am I considering withdrawal out of a sense of honor or because I don't want to be measured and found wanting?

I dislike how conflicted I feel when fencing lately.  I want to find a way to get back to the purity of line and form and struggle that first attracted me to the art.  Maybe I just need a chandelier to swing from.  That always buckles my swash.

More on this soon.  King's and Queen's is Saturday the 10th.  And while I'm not sure what I'll do when I'm there, I'm sure I will be there.

Wish me luck.

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