Herbstmesse, a Basketball Tournament, and a Burst of Genius

For the US, Halloween made this past week special. I’m sure a lot of sugar was consumed and teachers across the continent were struggling to keep the concentration of their students. Here, at the Black Forest Academy, our students waited just as anxiously for the bell at the end of the day on Wednesday. I would even make the case that they were MORE anxious.

At the end of our day Wednesday, we all borded buses which left for Basel, Switzerland. There in the great city of Basel was a special celebration of fall that occurs every year. It’s called Herbstmesse. Students spend every penny they have on candy, games, bumper cars, and crazy rides. 

While there are many differences between how we celebrate Halloween in Germany, one of the best differences is the fact that we have the next day off from school. As I understand it, the tradition has been for the school to have a 3 on 3 basketball tournament on that day. The tournament lasts about 6 hours, so this is the best time to accommodate it. 

This year, the yearbook class took the opportunity to run this basketball tournament. The two students in my class, who are in charge of the business aspect of our production, put ALL of the details together. They spent weeks organizing volunteers, gathering equipment, shopping for food supplies for concessions, and putting together the brackets for the competition. Their hard work certainly paid off! 

The event was professional, we made money to go toward the printing of the yearbook, and everybody had a great time! I believe we had about 12 teams of 6 members playing. What may surprise you is who made up the teams. Several students signed up for fun, without having ever touched a basketball previously. Yet, the students all arrived to play as if basketball was their favorite sport. They came in fun outfits with names like “The Burning Lemons,” and “Furious George.” These light hearted teams accepted the amateur nature of the event and had a lot of fun competing. The rest of us enjoyed the show. 

It’s probably not a stretch for you to imagine that I ended up being the DJ for this event. The best part is that I came prepared to manage and make sure the event ran smoothly but did not need to play such a role. My lead business student (who happens to be one of my small group girls) had it all taken care of. She and the rest of the yearbook team had a lot of fun and worked hard to make this event was special for everyone else. 

Needless to say, these two events made it hard to get a lot of serious work done the rest of the week. Students were either lost in anticipation for the events, or in recovery from them. However, I feel that the week was still very productive for both of my classes. In art appreciation, we reviewed the northern renaissance and prepared for our test, which was postponed until next week. I don’t know what I was thinking when I scheduled a test for the friday after Herbstmesse and the 3 on 3 tournament! In yearbook, we spent the week brainstorming how to make our yearbook theme a reality.

In yearbook class, theme has always been a hard thing to nail down. Students can easily generate grand ideas of fun things to do with the yearbook. The problem is that the ideas either have nothing to do with BFA or they are only in regard to elements in the yearbook, rather than theme. I have found it to be extremely challenging to focus them in on an idea that works best for BFA, while still inspiring them to do something different and out of the box. This year, I finally had the magic moment that I had hoped for last year. Some of the main ideas that the students had started to gel together. 

I felt like I was in a movie this week. Something very unexpected, but hoped for, unfolded in my classroom when we began our discussion on theme. I stood in front of my class and presented the ideas they had turned in, through a homework assignment, to each other. There was a lot of argument, as expected. It didn’t seem possible to escape this time of year without hurt feelings and bloodshed. Yet, we were able to get past it and move forward in pulling out the strongest ideas that were on the table. When we got to that point… it happened. The moment I had always hoped for. A student who doesn’t speak up often proposed an idea that the rest of the class LOVED. They erupted with ideas at once, building on the concept proposed by the quieter student. By the end of the class, the whole group was ecstatic with the creative adrenaline that had been summoned. Then, the most magical thing happened… the next class took that idea and ran with it! Finally, the two classes were in agreement. I couldn’t write their ideas on the board fast enough. I finally gave up. I spent an hour after class processing their ideas and recording them in a sequence that makes sense for design. 

So now, I sit in my living room at the end of this long week, contemplating how blessed I am. I’m lost in the joy that I have in serving God here in this community. I’m far more busy than I would have imagined. Yet, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it. Weeks like this make me sure that I’m meant to work with teenagers for the rest of my days. 

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