I love March Madness. I’m not much of a NCAA or NBA/WNBA basketball fan the rest of the year, but there is something about this tournament that gets me hooked.  At our house, we fill out the brackets with no particular rhyme or reason, no research on stats aside from rankings, and always rooting for the Big 10.  My daughter has an uncanny ability to get a good percentage of these contests correct with her logic, or lack of it.  We hope for the underdog to beat the top seed to create a more exciting Final Four.  It seems to be a better story, hence the “Cinderella” label these teams often receive.

Underdog: A person who is expected to lose in a contest or conflict (Merriam-Webster)

Underdogs have to work harder to prove themselves in situations where others may just be accepted for who they are. They rarely have a large group of supporters.  In fact, they may be ridiculed or unfairly judged be peers.  The only way to shake the ‘underdog’ title is to rise above the dominant forces that may work hard to take them down.  If an underdog succeeds once, it is a fluke more than evidence of talent or skill.

Underdog: A victim of social or political injustice (Merriam-Webster)

In our classrooms, in our schools, who are the underdogs?  Who roots for them? Who may root against them?   We are charged to create classroom communities where all students are celebrated, regardless of who they are, what they look like, the skills they possess, etc.  Based on this, we would assume that teachers are the biggest cheerleaders for underdogs, but I don’t think that is always true.  Conversations in the staff lounge and at team meetings may prove otherwise. We can tire of giving all we have to these students who are challenging in either behavior or academics.

But we need to remember what will make a better story. Not for our sake, but for the sake of the underdog.  The celebrations may seem greater, the victory that much sweeter, when that ‘a-ha’ or breakthrough finally comes. This celebration is not at the expense of others, but in unification over a common cause, to lift up one another in community.

So I’ll fill out my bracket tonight, choosing an underdog or two and hope that they make their way further up the rankings. And in doing so, I am already placing hope and confidence in changing what some may have felt was already the decided outcome. And it makes me wonder – Who else can I do this for in my classroom and my community?