Back in September, a 16 year old boy from my hometown was seriously injured during football practice. He broke his neck and surgery left him paralyzed from the chest down. As you can imagine, in a small town the news spread like wild fire. Prayers went up just as quickly.
I didn’t know the kid, but seeing my community hurting, broke my heart. I debated and finally decided to tell my homeroom kids. If I know anything about Webb City, it’s that they can relate to all things football.
I started with a white board using the Eldon football team’s motto, “Together we rise.” I told my students what had happened a couple days earlier. I explained how my hometown and all of the surrounding communities (even Osage, our biggest rival) were coming together to raise money for this one boy and his family. (All of the schools in our conference, plus a couple others, raised money the next two weeks at their football games!) Watching mid-Missouri come together inspired me to do the same with my homeroom.
I had my students write on my board what “Together we rise” meant to them. Then we wrote cards to Bushy. Wanting to do more, my mom and I bought my entire homeroom the green Backing Bushy bracelets that were being sold for him. My heart burst with joy as they’d randomly ask if I knew how Bushy was doing, still to this day they ask on occasion.
During this time I was also teaching a block of math, more specifically statistics. I thought what better way to apply statistics to real life than with football! Lucky for me, Webb City provided us with fairly consistent weekly scores while Eldon provided... obscure scores.
Things you need to know about Eldon football: I was a Varsity cheerleader 2005-2009. In those 4 years of cheering for Eldon football, they went 4-36. (0-10 my senior year and the year after I graduated!) In those 4 years, we learned to cheer for a first down like it was a touchdown and scoring a touchdown was practically like winning a game. I realize this is a foreign concept to Webb City folks. But we had to cope somehow.
Fast forward to 2017 and Eldon had been putting together a really great football season. A few of our scores looked more like that of a basketball game: 72-33, 82-48, 69-20, 72-69. Better yet, we were on the WINNING end of those scores! Proud to be a Mustang had never been so true. I don’t know if they were extra inspired by their fallen teammate or what, but it was an exciting time for sure.
I jumped at the opportunity to go “home” to watch several games for the first time since I’d cheered at them myself. Although it was also lesson planning for me. Each week from September-November, my students would find the average, IQR, and median scores of Webb City, Eldon, and their opponents. We’d write our guesses on the board each Friday and students who guessed the closest got candy the following week.
I secretly had turned my entire homeroom into fans of the Eldon Mustangs. But to be honest, I felt as though me getting to cheer on my hometown football team during a winning season was long overdue. I’d served my time and cheered proudly as they lost all those years ago, this was my time for redemption. Plus, my kids could rest assured in the fact that Webb City and Eldon would never play each other.
Long story short, we were all very sad to see Eldon fall to Mt. Vernon at Sectionals. However, I was also very pleased that they had made it that far finishing with an 11-2 record! We rejoiced together as Webb City brought home their 14th State Championship.
I should have known back in September what a truly special group of kids I had. Looking back now I think Eldon’s football motto perfectly and beautifully sums up my year with my homeroom. Together we rise. And boy have we rose together.
This group of kids... as they begin to countdown the days left until summer, I cringe. I don’t want to send them to Jr. High. I want to keep them.
A group like them is a rare gem in teaching. I’ve started feeling incredibly guilty for being this groups homeroom teacher. I rarely have to remind them to turn in missing assignments, they remind each other. I don’t have to pull teeth to get them to make their AR Goals, they read silently when they’re asked. When we were asked by our BIST consultant to come up with students who could benefit from a BIST plan, I was the student looking at the ground hoping not to get called on. I couldn’t answer that, because none of my students need a BIST plan.
It’s taken until March for me to finally come to terms with the fact that these kids really are that good. The ONE day I had to give them a “stern” talking to, the next week our other pod teachers were telling me how EXTRA good they were for them. When I congratulated the class for being rock stars, they responded, “We had to be! We were messing around during breakfast Friday and we had to make it up to you.” For real? 💔 I would take their “messing around” any day compared to most classes “messing around.”
We are a family. We joke around with each other. They like to remind me that I walked backwards into pole on the first day of school. I teach them important life lessons, like don’t lock your keys, spare key, and phone (containing your keyless entry code) in your car. They warn me when snow is coming, because they know snow and I don’t get along this year since my apartment flooded. They give me a hard time when I “abandon them” by taking HALF a personal day. They write “Go Royals” on my board because they know it’s the quickest way to see their teacher scowl. We celebrated together when Tommy Pham of the St. Louis Cardinals retweeted our white board drawing.
We build each other up. We cheer each other on. We fail. We make mistakes. We go too far with joking around and say we’re sorry. We do better the next day. We laugh, a lot. We have inside jokes. Sometimes we cry. We give high fives goodbye and occasionally hugs.
They are weird. They are quirky. They are nerdy in the best of ways. They walk down the hallway, always on the second tile, but sometimes squirmy like a worm or hoppy like a bunny, so you know what? I join them.
In case you were wondering, Bushy has regained movement in his arms, somewhat-ish in his hands, not his legs, yet. But we’re still praying and hope is still there. I’ve heard he’s a very resilient young man.
This 31 day blogging challenge wouldn’t have been complete if I hadn’t written about my kids. Years from now, I look forward to reading back on this year. Until then, I’m going to enjoy and soak up the days I have left with these kids.