As we enter the last week of March, many of us are following our brackets and the NCAA basketball tournament. Back at Notre Dame, groups of students are putting together their lineups for the largest 5-on-5 outdoor basketball tournament in the world, Bookstore Basketball. Here in the Dallas ACE community, however, our first-year teachers are anxiously awaiting preparation for the premier basketball tournament of the year: the ACE Summer Community Basketball tournament.
When ACE teachers return to Notre Dame for the summer, each community participates in a 3-on-3 tournament to determine the greatest community in all of ACE (that, or which community has the strongest combination of at least one tall athletic guy and a girl who played at least a few years of basketball in a church league growing up). This past summer, the Dallas community defeated the reigning champions from Atlanta after a hard-fought tournament. Beyond bragging rights (we may or may not still have the bracket on a wall in Dallas), this tournament brought us some much bigger wins for our community.
The start to your first ACE summer is a whirlwind: you graduate from college, only to immediately return for graduate school classes. You start teaching real-life children in summer programs just a few weeks after that. You meet total strangers who will become your housemates and only friends in a new city. All of this takes place as you somehow try to prepare to serve as an educator and mentor to dozens of children when you often feel totally lacking in preparation or guidance yourself.
For our community, basketball was a time for us to come together and put aside the stresses of the day or the week. It didn’t matter if you were the fastest or had the best jumper; what mattered was that you showed up, brought hustle and heart, supported your team, and had fun in the process.
The lessons learned in community basketball apply to the first days and weeks–and every day, for that matter–as an ACE teacher. You certainly won’t be the most talented teacher in the fall of your first year. Many days, you’ll wonder how you could get any worse. But by showing up the next day and the day after that, you commit to your and your students’ growth, little by little. The hustle and heart that you bring to teaching will make you a better educator and role model far more than any further preparation or advanced degree could. After a long day at school, you are still surrounded by those same teammates that first cheered you on at the bookstore courts in South Bend, and the lessons you’ll learn by being a teammate to them will teach you about solidarity and compassion in a way you’ve never encountered before.
As my cohort nears our last months of eligibility in ACE, it is bittersweet to see our first-year ACErs anticipating their new group of community members and teammates. But the relationships built in community will far outlive our two formative years in this program. We are forever bound together by a common mission: to provide all children with an education that makes them feel loved, known, and motivated to become the best version of themselves for service to others. It won’t hurt, either, if we can convince Fr. Joe to approve a trophy room in Remick Commons before this summer so the bragging rights for Dallas will be forever memorialized.
Learn more about the ACE Summer