the spoilings of war-mates

April 17, 2007

It is TAKS week. The short of this, though it seems short enough already, is that we lock all the teachers up in cubicle-esque rooms called “classrooms,” and force them to watch all the students at this “school” take this test that assesses the teachers patience with perilous ambling about, doing nothing, and making sure that none of these students succeeds in their mischievous plans to subdue the overt paradigm of the test, aka, “cheat.” It is a greatly trying thing on the teachers. Our casualties total…well, zero so far, but it is only the first day.

Yes, the horror of standardized testing. This might be where most people disintegrate into a huge globoid mass that devours all hearts and complains about how standardized testing inadvertently, through a long trail of cause and effect, ruins children for fun things like college application forms and non-TV-watching activity. Oh, the humanity. Actually, I think the tests are pretty stupid, but that is not what i want to talk about.

I want to talk about dodge-ball.

With all this brain-mangling going on in the classroom, we, down at the band hall, were faced with a dilemma. How are we going to get 85 kids, and then 125 in the next class, into the band hall, rehearse properly and out again in the allotted twenty-fives minutes of the shortened period. W, the head guy, decided it wasn’t going to happen, so he rigged a deal with the PE coaches: We help you with your class, and you let our kids come play in the gyms. He agrees. We have a plan.

So, for the next two classes, we trot the girls off to the gym to play volleyball, and the boys off to play dodge-ball. The gym is simple. It is a pale blue with a quaint hardwood floor, appropriately lined and marked for a number of indoor sports. It also has collapsible bleachers.

Enter about 100 7th and 8th grade boys, divided in two to the far sides of the playing field. The coach lines up all the balls on the half-court line, poised like land mines or precious ammunition dropped from the fractured supply truck. The warriors (aptly, the schools mascot) press feet hard into the floor, ready to sprint for the bullets for which they long, and tremble in anticipation of the single blast of whistle that fires them across the court.

In a cacaphony of yells and foot-stomps, it is war. The surge of bodies into one another, followed by the first volley of brightly colored spheres, is only the beginning of a raging battle mimicked many times before in all lands. One boy, stout in his own right, grabs a ball in each hand, bellows a war cry, and hurls death at a ready and waiting recipient from the opposite tribe. Another boy cheats game-death by sneaking back into the fray many times to claim victory over and over.He is a berserker of rubber and foam.

Despite all the battle, all the rage, there is one persistent feature amongst all those who fought valiantly. A smile, spread fat and bright across each face. Even those in the deepest of concentration. Even the boy who juggled the two balls in his hands and still scooped up the third, aimed for this head, and lunged it right back at his attacker. Even the boy who displayed great valor and celerity in beating the speeds of fifteen wailing assailants, dodging with accuracy, still getting his kill.

It is a beautiful thing, seeing all this lovely activity. Each massive blow, each crushing hit, greeted with good nature. Never did an anger flare, never did the smile break. A good time was had by all, to be precise.


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