My first contract as a teacher was for the last six weeks of the school year a few years back. It was for a grade 5/6 class. I was the sucker who agreed to take a full-time job right at the end of the year, leaving me with a group of summer-hungry kids, while also having to do all their report card grades and comments. This class had a slew of substitute teachers after their original teacher went on stress leave. I was young and figured it would be a good experience. What a dummy. This group was wild. It was really only a handful of them who caused all the problems, so one day, I came up with the perfect solution.
We were headed to gym class with the Fab Four acting like zoo animals. The easiest thing to do would be to sit them out. I had already done that a few times, though. I needed something better as a punishment. Something that would stick with them for the rest of their lives. Just then, I thought of it. “Alright, we’re playing dodgeball. If I call your name, go to the left-hand side. The rest of you will be on the other side.” I proceeded to call out 20 names. The kids didn’t understand what was going on. Finally, the jerk crew clued in that this was their punishment. They were going to have to go 20 on 4 in dodgeball. “This is what you get for all your misbehaving.” There were a few complaints and it really made me feel like they might smarten up going forward. I felt like a genius. Could I be the greatest teacher of all-time? Was this my shining moment that would be brought up in my Hall of Fame induction 30 years from now? Unfortunately, those thoughts quickly dissipated when the game started.
20 vs 4 became 17 vs 4, then 15, then 12. The more kids they took out, the cockier these hooligans became. Their trash talk was relentless. After a few particularly gruesome take-outs, I even had them staring at me, sort of like “you were the one that caused this.” It was a bloodbath. Of course the four turds were the four best athletes. On their side it was Randy Johnson, Brett Favre, Aroldis Chapman and Aaron Rodgers. The other side had Tinkerbell, Helen Keller, the three blind mice, and 15 others who were scared out of their minds, huddled in the back corner praying that they weren’t the next victim. I thought about joining the group of misfits to try to even the playing field, but I was too much of a chicken. The thought of potentially being taken out by one of the punks and the madness that would ensue was too much of a gamble for me. So I let it play out.
It was a massacre. I think they ended up with three of their four remaining, with the whole other team licking their wounds on the sideline. To this day, this remains my biggest failure as a teacher. Not Charles running away at recess, not Naisha throwing the chair at Curtis’ head. Nope, this dodgeball beatdown flashes back to me in my nightmares from time to time. The four miscreants actually started to ask to play this way going forward. Lesson learned- make sure the bad kids are not stud athletes before trying to have them destroyed in a friendly game of dodgeball.
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