I have suffered the indignities of Spirit Week: "Mister Caven, are those really your pajamas?" on Pajama Day. "Why is your hair all different colors?" on Crazy Hair Day. "You like the Broncos?" on Sports Day. I even endured the chafing of the back of my collar under my chin on Backwards Day, only to be asked "Why aren't your pants on backwards too?" Yes, I understand that Spirit, true Spirit, comes at a price.
But all those aggravations fall away at one point during that week. When the teachers finally take the field against the fifth graders in a friendly game of kickball. It is a relatively new tradition, but a tradition nonetheless. For the past seven years, when things in the classroom have run down to the very limited, life-support activities such as taking roll and checking in books, we all start looking out to the corner of the playground where we know destiny awaits.
It should be noted that the rest of the year goes by with teachers taking a quiet, passive role on the yard. We are generally out there to settle minor disputes, or find lost balls. Once a year, we get to line up and try to kick the ball over the fence. We want the kids to spend some time looking for the ball.
That happened this year. One of our first grade teachers connected with a soft roll from the pitcher and buried it in the limbs of a distant patch of ivy at the top of the fence. That was a foul ball. The rest of us teachers were more successful keeping the ball in play, and we kept our team of eight busy both in the field and in the dugout. The fifth graders put nearly fifty bodies between the baselines, and that meant many of our best attempts at blasting one over their heads was caught. The teacher's more traditional alignment relied on concentration and hustle. When it was all over, including giving the kids one last turn behind the plate, the grown-ups prevailed eighteen runs to eleven.
We did not rub it in. We gave all the kids high fives and congratulated them on a game well played. We breathed a sigh of relief, keeping our record intact of seven wins and no losses, but we never mentioned this. Until we got to the staff meeting where, for just a few moments, we allowed ourselves a little trash talk. We've got spirit. Yes we do.