Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Epic Dodgeball

Tap, tap. Does this thing still work? Sorry for the major break in posting. I've been too busy having fun to post about it over the past few months, but today's experience was just so epic that it calls for a blog post.

As many of you know, I teach seventh graders. In light of the holiday season, our school collected cans for a local food pantry. I announced it to my fourth period math class, and for the first six days of the can drive, we had six cans. The six I brought in. Then, all of the sudden, we picked up steam! Kids started raiding their parents' pantries for legitimate items, and at the first count, we were in first place! Then things started getting competitive. Due to the (supposed? actual?) peanut butter shortage, jars of peanut butters were worth 5 cans. Other fourth period classes started to catch up and pass our total. At the next count, we were in sixth place.

Now, middle school students are altruistic, but much more generous when they have incentive. And this was the carrot we were dangling: a dodgeball tourney for the top 6 teams. My kids were psyched to be in the top 6 teams, but they knew their position was precarious, so the day before the final count, one girl implored all of the other kids to bring in peanut butter. Another kid offered to stop at Aldy to buy it if they gave him money. (They also had their dander up because a couple of 8th graders came into my room pretending to count cans for student council and stole them from my class! Fortunately they were caught and their cans were returned. Anyways, that made my students pretty mad, once the word got around school.)

So the kids brought in more cans, more jars of peanut butter, and more swiped goods from their cupboards, but on the final day, when an email was sent around school, it revealed that we were in 7th place, one place short of qualifying for the tournament. Oh well, I figured. We wouldn't have gotten too far anyways.

But then, my telephone rang. It was the principal (not principle, how most of my kids like to spell this position), weighing the option of expanding the field to 8 teams, having two rat-tail matches on the morning of the tourney. I knew my kids would be pumped, so I readily agreed.

Pumped they were, once the principal announced that the top 8 teams would qualify. On Monday, we picked a team color to wear (black) and a table of boys dreamed up strategies on their mini-white boards between math problems. I really did not think that my class had any chance of getting out of the rat-tail match, but it was fun to be silly with them. Other classes were taking it to the top with tie-dyed tee-shirts and pow-pows of planning.

Fast-forward to this morning. We were playing the art teacher's class, and can I admit that I was a little relieved to note that a good athlete was on crutches? (Get better soon, kiddo!) The rules were stated, the horn buzzed, and our team took them down! My kids did look pretty intimidating with their eye black on and their black outfits, granted, but I was amazed at their athleticism! Throwing, dodging, catching, all with grace and ease! (Note: I wish they could be so amazing at math.)

So, they made it to the next round, which I wasn't able to watch. We were up against 8th graders (yikes) so I figured that was it. But... following the next round, we had made it past both of our opponents, and we were facing the tie-dye-tee-shirt-making team, in front of the whole school at the end of the day.

The game was on, Team S---- vs. Team B-------.

Following 7th period, I walk into a packed gym, wearing my high school soccer jersey since it was the right color for the tourney. (Thank goodness I bought that 8 years ago! I've used it sooo many times.) The kids were talking strategy and getting themselves all riled up for the game. As the crowd filled in, chants started.

The game began, and for a while, it looked like my team had the right strategy: get out the best players on the other team ASAP. I was cheering like a mad woman. But then the tides turned, and we were down to one player. The other team was hurling balls at her from the 3 point line and she dodged, admirably. Then, lo and behold, she caught one and our best player was back in!

I thought we had a chance, but then she slipped while dodging a ball and it hit her hair. OUT. One kid left, against five formidable opponents. But all of the balls were on his side of the line and he became the aggressor. He made them back up to behind their 3 point line and bam! Bam! Bam! Several throws letter, they were OUT. Our class was the school champs!!!! High fives ensued, but I was immediately torn away: the victors had to face the staff team, which I had agreed to play on, hence why I was wearing my black FHS soccer jersey.

I figured I could be a double agent, or at least I would be an easy out for my kids. At the same time, I didn't want to be the first out, so my strategy was to hide behind the big guys on my team. I was just goofing off, scurrying away from the throws, squealing whenever anything came my way. And then, miraculously, I caught a ball.

Now, most of you know that I am not a star athlete. I didn't earn many points on the soccer field or running track. My first year of being on the varsity soccer team I was the back-up goalie who didn't even play when the goalie was out! I'm fit, but I am not an athlete. (Hence why my parents were shocked that I won an award in high school for being a scholar athlete! "Really? YOU?")

It must have been the combination of fats and sugars from my last day of school parties, the florescent lights, and the previous chants of the crowd, but I was on fire. I caught balls. I dodged them using an amazing spinning move. I blocked them using a dodgeball I just caught. I was UNSTOPPABLE.

Until I launched a ball at one of my students, first ball I threw of the game. My kiddo looked like she caught it (apparently she didn't), and I turned away half-disappointed, half-hoping my kids would win. Then two more balls smacked me and I was out. For a few moments, it looked as if my kids might be able to withstand the attack the staff was mounting, but soon, it was all over. Staff was victorious, and I was high-fiving my kids, telling them great game. They were disappointed, but they knew they had done an outstanding job.

As the principal was giving the pep-talk, my fellow teammates awarded me MVP, an honor I am not accustomed to receiving for my athletic endeavors. And on the way out, I felt like a rock star again. I high-fived at least 100 kids, fist bumped the opponents from Team B------, got smiles and cheers from 6th graders I don't know but hopefully will have next year, and generally felt loved and admired by all.

It was an awesome day. I think I still have an adrenaline high.

Even better? Now we have break.