On Monday morning, as students entered the school there was a different sort of energy; an eagerness to talk, and yet a profound sadness greeted me at the classroom door. At every entry, I check in with students, greeting them by name and often asking a question to gage how they might be doing. On this particular Monday there were a few tears, some sadness and mostly disbelief in the responses students gave to the question, “What are you feeling most today?”.
As students put away their winter gear, they noticed Dear Basketball on the screen and the conversations about Kobe started. Resoundingly, students couldn’t believe that he had passed the day before. They sat down and we started to read and talk.
My decision to speak about Kobe Bryant and his contributions to basketball and the world was based on the fact that many of my students are true fans of basketball and several play in leagues. While I understand that there are many for whom his name alone may bring diverse feelings based on his sexaul assault of a woman, 16 years ago, I felt as though I still had to honour who he also may have been in the lives of my students. All over twitter there were mixed feelings about should and how educators “honour” – if that’s even the right word – Kobe within classroom spaces. I don’t for one second, discount what happened at all and I also can’t discount his contributions to the game. It is with this on my mind that I decided that Dear Basketball was going to be the way we started our conversation.
As we read, students noticed that he wrote from a place of true passion for the game. A couple even stated that they thought his writing was interesting because it seemed like a love letter you would write to a person instead. They reflected on the emotion that it might take to walk away from something that you love so much and yet, they were able to recount ways in which he still contributed to the world of basketball, even in retirement.
Our conversation ended as a slight admonishment. I asked students to reflect on their lives. They’re young but in the text, Kobe was able to identify his passion as early as 6. I asked them to think about what they are passionate about. Is there anything that they truly love or are excited about in the same way? If so, how might they continue to pursue that passion, even in times where it might be difficult.
I’m not always sure if I do things “the right way” in education but I knew that there had to be a conversation and an acknowledgement of how my students may be feeling. I’m always happy to learn. If you’re up to it, share what you did, didn’t do and/or your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!