Does this Dave guy ever have any fun?

For over a year, I’ve been writing about school reform and education policy.  If you’ve been following these posts, you know that I teach at a high school in Oakland, California.  You definitely know about my feelings about high-stakes testing, teacher quality, and public education reform. However, you might have asked yourself, “Is there anything to this guy other than work and education?”  Frankly, sometimes I (and my wonderful wife) ask the same question.

In this post, I would like to offer you a glimpse of my silly side, or at least a look at my favorite hobby.

My wife and I are medieval reenactors.  We both are members of an international club called the Society for Creative Anachronisms, or SCA for short.  We met, and fell in love, over the course of several SCA events and gatherings.

The SCA is a club for people who are interested in Medieval period of European history, from roughly the fall of the Roman Empire up and through the reign of Elizabeth I.  My wife and I focus our reenactment and play to the period of the Hundred Years War in the 14th century.

Janos This is me, ready to fight in my very best (my wife says, “most attractive”) armor.

Yep, I fight.  SCA fighting is analogous to a martial arts contest.  No onle knows who is going to win a fight before it begins—the fights are not scripted.  Fighters swing thier weapons at full speed and with power.  I aways come home from practice or a tournament covered in bruises and sore muscles.

There are safety precautions.  Specifically, the requirements for armor are strict enough to ensure that injuries are rare events.  That’s not to say that fighting doesn’t hurt.  Fighters use swords and other weapons made out of rattan wood. Rattan has the benefit of approximating the weight of a steel sword without the drawback of actual death or dismemberment.

In the SCA, fighting happens in two basic formats.  We do one-on-one fighting in tournaments.  We also do group-vs.-group fighting in wars.  Below is a picture of me fighting in a war this summer.  My wife, Wendy, and I traveled to southern Oregon to camp for a weekendlong war.

War
Wendy doesn’t fight, but that doesn’t mean that women are forbidden from fighting.  Many women participate in armored combat, fighting against and alongside the men.

Wendy is the artist of our partnership.  She is an expert tailor and seamstress.  She makes clothing from the 14th and 16th centuries.  All of her costumes are pieces that she has made herself.

Wendy in 16th cen. German costume This is Wendy, wearing a 16th-century German costume.  She made the dress, the undershirt, and the hat herself.  The jewelry was made by a friend of ours. Wendy runs her own business, making clothing for historical reenactors, along with the occasional wedding dress for close friends.

A big part of the fun of the SCA is camping.  Wendy and I have several medieval tents (called pavillions) that we use for our bedroom, living room, and kitchen when we are camping at an event.  We’ve bought the tents over the years from one of several commercial manufacturers.  Wendy likes to paint our tents, transforming them from white canvas into works of art that look like they have been transported out of a medieval manuscript or painting.

Tent

Here is a picture of our bedroom tent.  On the left, you can see the basic white pavillion that a friend of ours owns.  On the right is our pavillion, lovingly painted by Wendy.  In front are two of our friends fighting.  It’s hard to tell when she is in armor, but the fighter in black is a woman.  The fighter in blue and red is her husband —I guess not all domestic fights have to be bad for a relationship!

Inspiration Best of all, I love the romance of the SCA.  I love getting to spend the weekend playing dress-up.  I love being my wife’s very own “knight in shining armor.”

Like most everything in my life, even my hobby relates to teaching.  Obviously, when I taught seventh-grade world history, I had (perhaps) the best medieval Europe unit EVER!  My kids loved seeing me dressed up, and I loved the visits to my classroom from my SCA friends.  Nowadays, teaching high school, my hobby doesn’t fit the framework of my classess.  However, the lesson that history can be fun influences my job every day.

Related categories: