Saturday, August 15, 2009

The kickball game

Yesterday we had an evening barbeque at Jeff and Sarah Haun's house, which is across from our apartment here on campus. Jeff is the director at Country Day School, and Sarah is a first grade teacher. The teachers and staff got together to drink a couple Imperials, eat some burgers, and play a little kickball.

Last year's kickball game was really competitive. A big group of teachers and dorm counselors gave it there all for an hour or two, and left their blood, sweat, and tears out there on the kickball field. This year we did not have the same kinds of numbers, so we agreed to take it kind of easy. There were about 12 of us in all: 8 adults and 4 children. For some reason, I didn't quite register the part about taking it easy, and my competitive side definitely got the best of me. I'm reminded of a scene from the movie "Billy Madison," in which Adam Sandler, the adult main character unleashed his fury on a group of kindergardeners in a dodgeball game. By the time the kickball game was over, I somehow managed to leave each one of the kids roughed-up or in tears.

My first offense was totally accidental. I was playing catcher when somebody kicked a foul pop-up behind home plate. I quickly began to backpedal, determined to get underneath the ball and catch it. With my eyes on the ball, I kept backpedaling and prepared to make a dazzling catch, when I heard all of the players and fans shout "Stop! Look out!" Too late. I heard Ella, the Haun's 5-year-old daughter let out a shriek right before I plowed right over her and sent her flying. Ella was really brave and did not cry, but I'm sure that getting taken out by a 200 pound 4th grade teacher was not fun for her.

For my second strike I definitely tried to do the right thing, but may have used poor judgement. This time I was playing third base. Someone kicked the ball to me as Elyse, the P.E. teacher's 4-year-old daughter was trying to run to my base. I did not want Elyse to think that I was playing easy on a little kid, so I held the ball up and acted like I was going to throw it at her (we were playing with the rule that you could throw the ball at baserunners to get them out). However, it would be mean to throw the ball at a little girl, so I softly tossed it and purposefully missed her so that she could get to third safely. Elyse did not see it that way. As soon as I threw the ball, she quit running to third, burst into tears, and ran straight off the field to her mom. Oops.

The third mistake that I made was partially caused by my competitiveness and partially caused by my poor judgement. I was playing first base, when the director's son Jackson(who is also one of my students) kicked a short ground ball. I had to scramble in get the ball, and by that time Jackson was nearly at first. I was determined to make a spectacular play, so I quickly threw the ball at Jackson right before he got to first. Jackson was sprinting his little heart out, and my powerful throw connected directly into his back and knocked him over with a great "thump." I was proud of my play, but all of the other teachers looked at me, wide-eyed and very concerned for Jackson. "Let's call him safe, Joe."

At this point I knew that I had to clean up my act a little. No crashing into kids, no scaring kids, and no pegging running kids in the back. You would think that I had learned my lesson, but I guess I was destined to upset one more kid. This time it was another one of my students who happened to be there. It was the last inning and getting dark. Aiden, my student, had just kicked the ball and gotten out, so it was my turn to kick. Aiden must not have understood the rules or something, because instead of sitting on the sideline, he ran up to home plate again and got ready to kick once more. I could not believe it - it was my turn to kick! I told Aiden this, but he did must not have registered. I went in front of him a little bit and waited for the pitch, but Aiden was determined to kick, so he budged in front of me again. I gave him one more warning that it was my turn, and at that time the pitcher rolled the ball forward. Aiden got ready for the pitch and started to run forward at ball. This is probably the part where I should have backed-off and forgotten about it, but I could not get myself to give up! As Aiden was about to kick the ball, I darted in front of him and kicked it right before he could make contact with it. He looked dumbfounded that his teacher had just done such a thing. I ended up getting out before I made it to first, and at that moment I began to ponder my actions. I did not set out to do the terrible things that I ended up doing in this game, but I did them, nonetheless. Oh well, it could have been much worse if we were playing a big game of tackle football.

*Author's note: these events may have been portrayed more dramatically than what actually occured. I am a teacher and I know that it is not OK to hurt kids!

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