The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

I Am Not Against You

Mr. Hanks, Mr. Lane, Mr. Pierce, Mr. Sturridge, you are not my competition, you are my peers and I am proud to be in your company.
-Tracy Letts, upon accepting the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play

Repeat after me: you are not my competition.

Professional women, the other women at your workplace are not your competition.
Fauxhawk guy at the bar, the other guy in a smedium shirt is not your competition.
Every sports car at a red light, the car stopped next to you is not your competition.

About one year ago I drank the Crossfit Kool-Aid. I loved the variety, the intensity, and the atmosphere. Crossfit turned working out into a game, into a sport. Every day I would be challenged with something new- whether a new lift, a new exercise, a new combination of movements, or a new record to beat. Every day we record our scores on a whiteboard, taking ownership of our accomplishments. Every day we strive to be better than yesterday.

The North Central Regional Crossfit Games were held in Chicago on the weekend of June 2-3. Forty-one women and forty-seven men were competing to reach the Crossfit games. Only the top three competitors of each gender would advance. This is cutthroat time, right?

Absolutely, if by cutthroat you mean everyone wildly cheering on all the other competitors, pushing them to do their very best and exchanging nothing but handshakes, hugs,and high-fives after every event (WOD, for those in the know).

You see, Crossfit is extremely competitive. Successful Crossfitters are extremely competitive. They have to be in order to push themselves to the ridiculous limits that they do. However, the competition is internal. The competition is past me versus present me, so that future me can be even better. In some WODS (Workouts, Workout Of the Day) you are scored by time, in some by weights, in some by reps – but your competition is always against yourself. It doesn’t matter what the person next to you does if you do the best you can do. You either can do more, faster, or better or you can’t.

You can do 100? I can do 101. You can do 50? I can do 101.
Next time I’m aiming to do at least 102.

Students, your teachers are not your competition.
Teachers, students are not your competition.

I am not against you.

If you lose, I do not win. If you win, I do not lose.

We win and lose together.

I want every student in my classroom– no, I want every student in every classroom to know more than I know and to learn more than I have learned.  I want our world to be better tomorrow than it is today.

I blame Mark Twain.

Tom and Huck were American Heroes for playing hooky.   And damn anyone who tried to sivilize ’em.

Our society has a perception that no child would ever want to go school, or behave at school, or pay attention to the lesson at school, but the teachers must force them, often by ear-pulling or a ruler rap on the wrist.  We have a society wheres students have to go to school.  Not to alter a well-loved cliche, but there are children in Africa starving for knowledge.  Children who would beg for the opportunity to go to school, to have books to read, to know how to read them, to be better today than they were yesterday so they may build a better future for themselves, their families, their planet.

Words become thoughts, become ideas, become beliefs, becomes habits, become systems.

We have to go to school?  That’s weak.  We can do better.

We must do better.

We will do better.

I am not against you.

About Jamaal

Lover of words, liver of life, director of theatre, keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts. Twitter: @JamaalAllan

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