There are beautiful moments when the students rally around their teacher. I had one such moment last week. But for me personally, it was less than fun.
There is a fence around the soccer field at school. It is about eight feet high and five rams live on the other side of it.
Now when Claudia was young and her family played baseball in the yard behind her house, her dad made the rule that “over the fence is out”. He even wrote a poem about it.
We need the same rule in kickball. But I’ve always felt that it’s special to kick the ball far and high enough to send it over the fence. In fact the students seem to like it too, if they are on the team who sent it there. When a seventh grader sends the ball over the fence, the small ones on his team go running around the bases behind him: practicing home runs, I guess.
The opposing team likes it less.
Last week I was an outfielder when the ball sailed out and over the fence. I raced after it, grabbed the mesh wire and pulled myself to the top. I did not hesitate there, but prepared to land on my feet and scoop up the ball.
I could hear the cheers of the smaller ones taking off around the bases. I could hear the groan of a teammate, “It’s no fair! He just kicks it over the fence and gets a free home run.” I thought about my father-in-law’s rule. I thought about how that student needs to not be such a complainer.
I leapt. But the fence has wires about two inches long poking out the top of it. My shoe snagged and I slanted toward the sheep pasture. For a split second my shoe held before it slipped off my foot, but it was enough. My arms were not out to catch me, and I fell chest first on the packed earth.
It was not my life that flashed before my eyes. One moment, I was thinking of how to help a student overcome grumpiness. The next, I was eye level with small pieces of sheep excrement, and I was wondering at the shape of it, and surprised at the quantity, and afraid I may be rolling over piles of it.
I couldn’t breathe or talk. I could only roll back and forth like a windshield wiper.
The students came running and I sat up rocking and tried to tell them everything was okay. It’s tough to talk when you’ve recently rammed yourself down in a ram pen. “I’m..” I breathed, “I’m..” another breath, “..okay.”
“There, I can breathe again.”
I stood up as proof that all was well, and threw the ball back into the playground.
The students suggested calling the ambulance or taking me to the hospital to make sure I was all right. I shook my head and brushed off my pants.
Later, at lunch, I heard debates about who laughed and who didn’t when they saw me topple. I heard them discussing whether or not a fall like that could kill someone. Then they were telling me how glad they were I was okay. It felt good, and I felt cared for.
“You’d miss me if I died, wouldn’t you?” I asked.
A fourth grader pursed his lips and replied, “Well, Claudia would cry really much and it would be so sad.”
I shook my head and walked back to the office.
That night my dear wife soaked my pants in vinegar water to get the stains out and make all things good as new again.