Regional Championship Photo - IBF

2017 We the People Central Regional Champions

If winning once in Indiana is hard; winning back-to-back is a Sisyphean task.  The state’s competition is brutally tough due to, in no small measure, to Mike Potts’ Brown County team.  Last year, we won surprising ourselves, and I assume others, simply because of the dominance of Brown County over the entire history of Middle School We the People competition.  We honored the victory by carrying it over to a National Championship (which of course is something that Brown County has experienced twice).


FB_IMG_1493749877608This year’s team faced a pressure that none of my teams ever truly faced…living up to the previous year’s success.  Over and over these 30 kids had to endure the expectations of victory and the subtle, and not so subtle, reminders that last year’s team won.  Every single Weople knows three things: (1) there is a lot of material, (2) it is a lot of work, and (3) you cannot hide when you are in competition.



Photo Leaving Fishers Junior High in November

People asked me about this year’s team pretty quickly after tryout’s last year; my response was always the same–they are a more talented team, but I will see if they are more resolute.  Well that question was answered on December 12th (my birthday).  These kids are tough.


In Round 1 there were some missed opportunities, but never did they panic.  They listened, they expanded, they grew and they kept moving forward.  There were fantastic moments when they brought tears to my eyes.  It was the second round when they stood


Delivering the State Trophy to Mrs. Thorpe’s office –there is so much joy on their faces.

out.  It was in that second round when I stopped writing questions and just watched.  It was a perfect moment wrapped into 2 hours.  Unit after unit pushed forward.  Opinions became more natural, references became cleaner, and I watched my team, so full of promise, live up to that promise.  It was …. a perfect moment.  I have felt it before, but not so often that I do not crave the next one.


InvictusAs with every team before them they recite Henley’s poem, “Invictus”.  In the beginning of the year the words probably yielded meaning, but not understanding.  At Regionals they began to show understanding; at State they knew.  They knew that the “fell clutch of circumstance” was competition.  Their work, their unit family, their team would find them “unafraid”.  Most importantly, they understood that they were the masters of their fate and the captains of their souls.  When we circled (or “shaped” as Sturgeon called it) and recited the words there were tears from them; from their teachers that supported and challenged them, and maybe a few tears from the families that came to watch the unexplainable.  [I have always struggled to describe We the People to the layman].

At the end of Round 2 there was the elephant in the room that I needed to address.  I told them the story of how we came to this moment; described each of the prior teams; took us through the sorrows and joys; and rightfully told them that this was the best team performance I had seen at state…HOWEVER, I told them, and the families, that they needed to be prepared for victory AND defeat.  It was a hushed room moment.  I have told them all year that Brown County is a proud program led by a great teacher and that they will work as hard or more than us if we falter.

Sitting in the beautiful ballroom waiting for the results a calm fell over me.  I don’t know why.  Normally I need to remind my heart to beat and my lungs to seek refreshment.  It took awhile for me to understand.  My kids were perf20171212_091159ect.  They climbed past every obstacle and pressure.  They delivered in the tensest of moments.  They did not wince, nor cry aloud.  They did all that was possible.  They were perfect.  No matter their finishing place; they could not have done more.


2017 We the People Middle School State Champions

I barely remember Collin Gruver calling 2nd Place to Brown County; I watched Mike’s team show class, as they always do; knowing full well that they were also perfect.


The next day when we received the final scores our margin of victory was less than one half of one percent.  The narrowest margin in Indiana Middle School history.  The microscopic gap would be a rounding error in accounting; the gap between second and third was large.

GibranLastly, before the first round I read to them a passage from my favorite book, “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran on Work.  It changed my life when I first read it.  These kids worked as if the people that loved them the most would watch their performance.  It was work not done for a grade; it was work done with love.  I wept when I read the whole passage to them, because I was talking about them.  They were the living examples of what it is to work with love.  This will carry them for the next five months when the learning becomes deeper, the material harder, the expectations greater.  But I am not worried, because they work with love.

As always there are people that I need to thank.

  • My Weoples / Angels / Hoodlums.  They trusted me to get them ready.  They put up with demands, the penalties for hand raising, Kings of the Mountain, work with no grades, learning to take notes, no BEST periods in the beginning, and so many more demands.  They are fun.  We laugh.  They make me laugh.  They have grown so much.
  • Tony Sturgeon and Kevin Stumpf.  Without them I would be lost.  They ground me in the big moments.  My wife remarked at State competition how the three of us just seemed to know what needed to be done and did it.  They make it so I can concentrate on the kids and competition.  They are my brothers.
  • Crystal Thorpe.  Thank you for believing in me four years ago.  I have documented her support in previous blogs; so I will just summarize.  When it would be easier to say “no”, she said “yes”.  Schedule nightmares did not matter to her; what mattered was a program that would benefit kids.
  • Indiana Bar Foundation.  Indiana is blessed to the a State Assembly that funds the We the People program through the IBF.  They provide first-class training in the Summer Institute and the Birmingham Institute.  More importantly, every person at the Foundation is there to help teachers reach kids.  The program is first class.

I am sure that I should write more and hope to soon.