It was a bit surreal crashing to the floor, sliding and bouncing while losing control. I knew I wasn’t badly hurt, but getting up without help when my body finally came to a halt didn’t seem realistic. So when two staff members immediately reached out their hands, I was beyond grateful. Only six months in at a new school and there I was in a gym of middle schoolers full of anticipation for a once in a lifetime student versus staff basketball game. And just for a second, everything seemed to stop. I had fallen hard right on my bottom and everyone was watching. Impossible to hide. Impossible to take back. And ironically, what a middle school moment it was.
It was certainly a challenge to walk back to the bench, yet a colleague rushed over to help me. We laughed, I embraced the moment, and within a few minutes I was able to shake it off. Yes it was embarrassing, yes I was certainly in pain, but this was my first Wildcat game and I was going to continue playing no matter what. In fact, toward the end of the game I found myself to be an ungraceful maniac on the court just like the old days, fighting for rebounds, steals, and taking more risks shooting the ball. It was almost as if the fall had made me stronger.
When I walked out with my daughter after the game we came across a group of students, some who I knew and some who I didn’t. They cheered and clapped. I knew instinctively it had nothing to do with my level of play. I only made one basket. I felt with every bone in my body that this applause came from a deep appreciation that I (as well as my courageous teammates) left it all out on the court. Sadly, we lost by many points, but we brought our whole beings to this dynamic adventure and that made all of the difference.
I’d like to think I also gained some respect because my fall was a result of physical contact with a student. I was knocked down unintentionally. In that dramatic split second, however, I had unintentionally shown students that it’s also okay for them too to leave it all out on the court. That’s it’s okay to show leadership, to play hard regardless of the fragile forty year old teacher standing before them. The student team dominated and that was awesome. They led us and that showed that in truth, at Wilson Middle School, we are all on the same team, students and staff alike.
Here is a Quik video from this incredible experience!
The next day, I walked into the clinic to ask our one of a kind nurses a question, when they mentioned to my surprise that my fall had been somewhat of a hot topic. I noticed a student nodding her head in agreement. I looked at this student and said, “Really? Students are talking about it?” And then came a line, the very line that inspired me to write this post.
“Well yeah. It’s just that we really don’t see teachers fall.”
I wish I could have told this student just how much teachers fall. I wish I could have told this student the number of times in my career I felt like I was crashing to the floor unable to move. I wish I could have told this student that just like in the game, I never saw it coming. Instead, I smiled. I think I was in a bit of shock that somehow I had made the front page of student news.
Just a week before the big game, I fell hard. Only this time my body was completely intact. An unexpected book review, however, shook me. Regardless of our age, words can hurt. And if you have a sensitive heart like mine, they may even knock you over, especially when public for the world to see. I would love to be that resilient rubber band that springs right back into place. I’m more like those rubber bands that are old and worn, and don’t have as much pop. I stand back up again. I just need to do it in my own way and sometimes I call on others to help. Even better, they show up uninvited.
Just like in the game, I got up with help. Just like in the game, I got stronger. In fact after the initial shock, I was better than ever. Amazing leaders (some I know and some I don’t) thundered with positivity and reminded me that the more we take risks as educators, the more likely we are to take a hit and lose our balance. Yet the overwhelming number of people leaning over you reaching out their hands makes the journey one hundred percent worth it.
So to any students out there, teachers fall too. We fall a lot. Although I can’t change the way I was wired, I can certainly choose to get back up and try to inspire others to do the same. If we don’t put ourselves out there, fall down and bounce back, we will have absolutely no idea what we could have done, who we could have been, and what it feels like to leave it all on the court.