My back hurts! I have a kink in my groin, and my baby finger does not bend like it did two days ago. My heart, however, is bursting with pride.
Yesterday morning began like any other day. Fun lessons were set to go. I knew from history, it was not a sit down and write quietly day. The junior high team had a football game planned. On football days they are a little more “enthusiastic” than normal.
Case in point. The old way: I start my explanation of the lesson saying something like, “Every group needs a set of highlighters….”
Five to seven boys would jump out of their chairs and launch into an all out race to the back of the room. Imagine with me: Chairs toppling from the momentum. But that doesn’t stop them. They simply hurtle the obstacle and heaven help the individual that is between them and the well organized supplies in the back of the room. In a matter of thirty seconds, we have witnessed the opening scene to the actual Hunger Games. Oblivious of the girl wincing because a toppled chair hit her in the knee, the victor while brandishing five brightly colored markers declares, “I took care of it for us.”
Nope, I don’t make that mistake anymore. We have vocab battles set up on Classcraft. They have alliances and are battling against a big purple animal thingy to gain 500xp and 75 gold coins. This battle will be a mental one.
In a further show of support, I spent the morning decorating myself in fanfare also known as the Jamberry wraps with the school mascot, logo, and colors. I had my new school shirt, and my headband and shoes to finish the theme. Win or lose, our junior high football team was going to know they had a die-hard fan. I could feel it in my gut, the kids were going to have a great day.
Except, it didn’t happen the way we planned. When we arrived, we all learned that the other team forfeited the game. The boys were sad, mad, disappointed and did not care one bit that I thought they were the best team ever. Then a follow-up announcement came over the PA system. The junior high team was playing at the end of the day. Their competition was the alumni. “What is alumni?” they asked. I named off a couple of the kids they’d remember. “Jackson, Tyler, Sam.”
Their eyes grew wider with each name drop. “Jackson cannot be tackled. He hurdles people.”
In my finite wisdom, my response was in line with the gladiators. “Then grab his leg as he jumps over you and pull him down.”
Kids were scared. Hindsight told me that I shouldn’t have been quite that encouraging. But I digress. Back to the story.
Then came the unexpected call. “Hey, how do you feel about playing in the game against the junior high kids?”
Before I share my answer I’d like to interject that I do not know how to throw, catch or handle a football. The shape confuses my senses. My helpful side did not seem to care. It said, “sure.” The helpful side inferred that they had to have asked me for show. You know have the peppy teacher on the sidelines. That’s my gig and I’m good at it.
Just in case, the study hall lesson hour was in the gym with the kids teaching me how to throw a and catch a football. With every drop of the ball, they had a pointer. With every wobble, there was a comment on how to improve it. At the end of the hour, I was a little more confident and they got 500xp points to fight against the purple thingy because they experienced life from the teacher/coach perspective. That in itself was priceless. Right? This is where life was chuckling at what was soon to happen.
It turned out that the “alumni” team was a motley crew of people pulled together in the two hours between the announcement and the end of the school day. The history teacher was the quarterback. He graduated from the high school in 1985. The business teacher, and a dad of one of the players, were receivers. The older brother of one of the players and the current Student Council president played receiver and linemen. I was on the field because I knew how the flags worked.
The looks on the boys’ faces probably matched the look on mine the first time I felt the strong shove on my bad shoulder as one of my little darlings blocked me. I did not know pushing was permitted in flag football. When the stars faded and I remembered where I was, I yelled, “You did not teach me how to do that!”
And their response of, “You didn’t ask,” floored me. That was it. Game on. I still couldn’t catch a ball. They didn’t need me to throw a ball. It got real. I snatched at and caught a couple flags. The older brother full on tackled his younger brother for the ball. The kids got all strategic and tricked us into going offsides. Twice. I had to throw out a couple bags of Skittles mid-play to keep a couple of them away from my flag. One of my affable ten-year-old who loves the Dork Diaries books growled at me… He gave me a full snarly faced grr.
Then it happened. The people who read Piece of Cake know what I am talking about. When I am not teaching, I am the school librarian. Those lessons from earlier in the day proved useful and the school librarian crossed the goal line with a football in her hands.
Kids were shocked. I danced. And the game went on. Until twenty minutes later when the “Alumni” team limped with exhaustion.
I am sorry the original team forfeited, but I am not. There was a larger lesson here. Our community is here for the kids always. Four of the six people on our team had bad knees, hips or backs. Without hesitation, we went out there to let those boys prove how tough they were. And, Wow! They embraced the opportunity. Parents cheered on the sideline and the high school football team coached those boys throughout the game. Those boys can say a lot of things about our small town and at the top of the list is we are there for them as much as possible. And we are. We do it with the hope that when they have a problem or deal with a character lesson in the absence of adult influence, they’ll remember they have a community of people who are rooting for them to come out of the problem a winner.
P.S. they won the game by one point.
Until the next post.