Monday, December 14, 2009

The Big Toe

Last week on Friday a little boy in my class hurt his toe at recess. I’m not exactly sure how he did it. We were playing this great playground game developed by my class a few years ago. It is called O-Ball. I think it is the blend of “OH BOY!”, dodge ball, and O’Keefe, but the origin of the name is uncertain.

According to my die-hard O-ballians, it is the greatest playground game ever invented. It is a blend of dodge ball, bombardment and capture the flag. Some of the regulars think it should be the next Olympic sport. I concur.

Anyway, Adam came up to me limping mid-game. We were dodging left and right and had to call a serious time-out for ourselves or else risk being brained by a ball. He was limping badly and, while he wasn’t crying, he had that near crying look on his face that read real pain.

“I hurt my toe,” he said between clenched teeth.

“What happened?”

“I’m not sure. I was running from base and bashed it on a root or something.”

“I’m sorry, buddy. Do you think you want to go to the nurse?”

“I’ll wait,” he grimaced, and played on.

He limped all the way back to class. When we got inside, he took off his shoe and sock on that foot and sure enough, he had bent back his big toenail pretty far. He wasn’t going to loose it or anything, but some blood vessels had broken near the end and it was getting a little purple. “Ouch!” I sympathized. “Those kinds of injuries are pretty painful. And they feel sore for a long time. Why don’t you get some ice?” He walked barefoot on his heel all the way to the office and back. When he came back he had a bag of ice on his naked toe and nursed it for the rest of the afternoon.

That was Friday. The students had a long weekend since teachers were in staff development on Monday. Tuesday morning, Adam came bounding in with a big old grin on his face. I had sort of forgotten about the injury.

“You know what?” he asked while I was sorting through homework assignments and taking care of the usual morning routine.

“Great to see you. What’s up?”

“My foot feels fine.”

“Oh?” I asked, not remembering last Friday’s injury. He could tell I didn’t know what he was referring to.

“My foot. It feels fine.”

“That’s nice, Adam,” was my curt reply. I still didn’t get it.

“Actually, I think the only thing that would hurt it would be if I kicked a steel wall with all my strength! Other than that, nothing would really hurt it.”

“Ah,” now I remembered the big toe injury. “I bet I could think of some things that might hurt it… What if I brought in my sledgehammer? I know it’s no steel wall, but…”

We laughed, trying to outdo each other with big-toe-injury-possibilities for a couple of minutes. A few others joined in. “How about dropping a bowling ball on it?” “What if a big school bus ran over it?”…

I know it’s silly, but it’s times like these that I appreciate the kind of community we have created together. It’s not taught in your education methods classes, it’s not in the long list of educational standards, and it's definitely not on the high stakes tests the children must take in the spring, but the ability to make one another laugh just comes with the territory, a little benefit that comes from living and learning together as friends.

Let’s call it an important life skill and leave it at that.


Harper and Dad said...

I absolutely agree that one of the greatest treats of teaching is sharing these small moments where all we are doing is enjoying each other's company and having a laugh.

When I first started teaching I often worked on whatever project my kids were working on. I'd sit at a table or on the floor, right in the middle of them, and work and chat, work and chat. I truly loved learning about their families and weekends and pets. We'd talk about school or books or just make up silly jokes and giggle.

At some point I became much more "serious" about teaching and spent every moment monitoring, assessing, and recording. My days became much more rushed and I felt as though I never had time anymore to get to know my kids on a personal level. I was losing what I loved most about teaching - the relationships.

In the last year or two I've made sure to slow down and enjoy the kids just as much as the teaching. I'm learning more and more that there are times when it's best to put aside my clipboard and just be.

That's one reason I love teaching with you. I often do things in my classroom because they feel like the right thing to do - even if I'm not always 100% why. And then you share a story that sounds a lot like something that I've been doing or, at least, thinking about and I feel assured I must be on the right track!

Mr. Brown said...

Loved it - thanks for sharing this story.