During Field Day, I got very upset with my homeroom. We were in a dodgeball tournament, and the kids were playing extremely well. They were beating other teams decisively and we even generously let another team play with extra players and then dominated anyway. It was great and we were having fun.
The problem was that we also really wanted to win the championship, and we’d heard frequently from other kids that our opponent for the trophy had been cheating all day. During the final game, I was in charge of watching and calling out my own team, so I didn’t see the other kids to know if they cheated or not. What I do know is that my kids decided that cheating merits cheating, and they turned into terrible sports. When I saw and heard them get hit by a ball and called them out, they would start arguing my call, refusing to leave the field or sneaking back on, and one kid started telling everyone not to listen to me because I was cheating for the other team.
We lost the game anyway, and they complained incessantly about how the other team cheated. Furious, I sat them all down and told them I would have thrown away the first-place trophy if we’d won. We didn’t play like winners, and we deserved to lose because a victory you cheat for doesn’t count as a victory at all. I don’t know and I don’t care if the other team wasn’t playing fairly, because that shouldn’t have affected whether or not my own kids did the right thing. I was really disappointed in them and made it clear for the entire rest of the day.
Then eighth graders assaulted a kid and her mom after school, and it all got thrown into perspective for me. I wanted to get my homeroom kids back and hug them. I’m a lucky teacher if I can be infuriated at them for cheating at dodgeball, which is a petty crime when you look at the bigger picture. I don’t take back the disappointment I showed them, because those are the age-appropriate life lessons I want to be teaching in the eighth grade. I’m just thankful they give me the opportunity to be so angry over something so minor, when really they could be doing things that are so much worse.