I’ve already written about the time I tried and failed to rig a game of dodgeball so the annoying kids would lose. Here’s my second disastrous dodgeball story. I was a regular supply at this absolutely dreadful school for about a year. These kids were beastly. Some subs went in once and never came back. I once had a boy and girl throw fists in the middle of class. The girl kicked his ass. It was constant mayhem at this school. I did my best to not let it get to me. I told myself to make it through the day, make some money, and take the next 3 days off curled up in the fetal position on my couch. Easy Peasy.
Anyway, the main class I supplied for was the grade 4 class. The only trick that really worked with these guys was tech time. Nothing quite like a child’s addiction to staring at a bright screen. “If you guys are good the whole day, I’ll give you tech time at the end of the day.” This allowed me to become their favourite supply teacher. I took pride in going back in, one of the brave few who dared to return. My tech time trick was undoubtedly my secret weapon.
One day, though, I came in and the teacher’s note had a message written for me in big lettering: NO TECH TIME WHATSOEVER TODAY. The students had heard I was going to be the supply and gave out a nice cheer. They told their teacher about my tech time rule. Their teacher, some old bag who seemingly hated fun, didn’t think I should give out tech time for good behaviour. She thought it was a bribe and made them think that whenever they were good, they would be rewarded. Lady, your class is a nightmare. Most subs decline this job as soon as it’s messaged to them. I found the one trick that works, and now you’re taking it away from me? Needless to say, I really played it up to the students that it was Ms. Oldbag, and not me, that banned tech for the day. I was really hoping they’d boo her when she came in the next day.
Without the ability to bribe them with internet fun, I needed to pivot. I saw that they had gym towards the end of the day and came up with an alternative bribe: The best behaved students could choose the game we played, and if you weren’t good, you wouldn’t play at all. A few oddballs didn’t like gym so this didn’t work on them, but I did what I could with the hand Ms. Oldbag dealt me.
I managed to make it through the day with only a few incidents. You know, maybe a chair thrown here, a few F bombs there, normal 9 year old stuff. The game they chose for gym was Dr. Dodgeball. Both teams choose a doctor and whenever a player is hit, the doctor can save them by dragging them to the safe zone at the back wall of the gym. The goal is to hit the doctor because at that point, no one can be saved so you can just pick off the rest of the opposition one by one.
Right away it was clear that the Team A was far superior to Team B. That’s the tough part about being a sub. You don’t know who the top players are. I looked at Tommy and thought he was a stud athlete but he had a noodle arm and was as coordinated as a baby deer. That really set Team B back. So I decided to join Team B to give them a fighting chance. I came in slow, taking some light throws at some of the scrawny kids up front, then took out a few girls migrating in the back corner of the gym. I eventually made it to be an evenly matched game. Mission accomplished, right?
Well, here’s the thing- I was already out there, so I figured I might as well keep playing. I ended up setting my sights on Jonny. He was a fairly annoying kid, the type that we in the teacher industry call a pest. Always getting under the skin of the other kids. A Brad Marchand, if you will. Over and over again it was his name that was mentioned by the other students for poking, pushing, swearing, name-calling, pencil stealing, etc. My first throw his way was a Jamie Moyer soft-toss. He easily moved to the left and avoided it. He then proceeded to chirp me: “That’s all you got Mr. M?” I laughed it off and throw another ball this way, but again, not at full speed; After all, I’m in my mid 20s playing against 9 year olds. He was able to dodge it again, and another chirp came my way, “my grandma throws harder than that.” I continued to smile but at this point, I was ready for war. No more Jamie Moyer, it was time for Nolan Ryan to come out. I picked up another ball and delivered an absolute missile, headed right for his chest.
There was no way pudgy Jonny was going to be able to move laterally to avoid that bullet. His only chance was to try to catch it, but Jonny wasn’t the brightest bulb so he opted to try to duck out of the way of it. Well, what followed was a scene from a gruesome war movie. Think of the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan. Jonny’s decision to duck made it so the ball hit him square in the mouth. His head flung back, his feet fell out from underneath him. He ended up down on the ground, arms flailed above his head, looking like a dead corpse in the middle of the gym floor. This was where the war scene resemblance really came in.
The doctor on his team came running in, grabbed him by the arm and dragged him to the safety zone as he was screaming to the heavens. At this point, I knew I had to call it quits. I threw up the white flag and walked across enemy lines to check on poor Jonny. Immediately, he needed what every elementary school kid needs when they’re hurt- ice. I’ve had kids ask for ice when someone called them a mean name. Ice heals all in the mind of a kid. In this case, with his eyes swelled up and his nose looking a little crooked, I thought ice could actually help. I told him to tell the office that he had been hit in dodgeball and needed ice. Use those exact words. No need for specifics. Well, that ended up being my last day teaching there. Jonny gave me up. What a baby. I hope his nose is still a little crooked.