Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #152
It’s what we all do when no one is watching that really counts. And sometimes it’s what we do that we don’t even remember that makes a huge difference in the lives of our students.
It’s What You Do When You Think No One Is Watching (installment 3)
When did I start noticing the stuff that most people (well, other than Mr. Zutz, Coach Mumm, Mr. Froiland, and Mr. Hickman tend to notice) do not even think twice about?
I’m not sure, but I do know the moment when it became clear to me that it is vital to remember the little things because they can have the most profound effect: parent/teacher conferences the fall of 2010.
Two of my very favorite people in the world were about to walk into my room: Steve and Jennifer Olson. I first met them when I had their oldest son, Ben, as a freshman football player three years ago. They stopped by my room then to say hello and talk about how much Ben was enjoying football. It was then that I thought, wow. These parents show up for conferences even when I don’t have their son in class! Impressive.
But this year I actually had the privilege of having Ben, now a junior, in my College Composition I course.
Jennifer said, “Hello, Mr. Reynolds,” with a smile and shook my hand.
Steve gripped my hand next and shook if vigorously at least half a dozen times before pulling me close and saying, “Thanks for all you’ve done for Ben this year.”
“Well, you’re welcome. He’s a great kid.”
“. . . And Sam,” he said before releasing my hand and taking a seat at the desk next to the one his wife was already seated in.
“Yes, Sam,” I said, thinking about their middle son, who I didn’t have in class, but who was on the ninth grade football team I coached.
Unfortunately, Sam had gotten a nasty concussion and wasn’t able to play beyond the first few weeks. He approached me to tell me that he was thinking of quitting. I balked at such talk and told him to stick around. Afterall, we only had 13 kids out for football. We couldn’t afford to lose one, even if he wasn’t able to play! I told Sam that he could be my assistant offensive coordinator.
Sam agreed and stayed on to help me and to work as a team manager as well.
“Well, I’m enjoying Ben in class immensely, “ I said, pushing a copy of his grades over to Steve and Jennifer. “His writing is well developed and very thoughtful. I just wish he spoke up more in class.”
Steve laughed and said, “Well, Ben isn’t the talkative one . . .”
“That would be Sam,” Jennifer finished her husband’s sentence for him.
“Ah, Sam,” I chuckled. “My assistant offensive coordinator.”
It was odd, I thought that we ended up talking more about Sam at Ben’s conference than we did about Ben.
It was then that Steve and Jennifer leaned in close to me and said, “We just want to thank you for what you did for Sam last week.”
I was shocked. I stared at them both. I even frowned.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” I said. The truth was I had no clue what they were talking about.
“Sam came home on Monday,” Jennifer began, “and told us how you actually threw him a touchdown pass at the end of practice.” The smile again spread across her face. I saw her eyes tear up just a little.
“Oh, yeah . . .” I chuckled, finally recalling the incident, which I had completely forgotten about.
When a team is comprised of 11 players on offense and 11 players on defense, it’s difficult when you only have 13 players. Total.
So to improvise, we had half of our offense practice against half of our defense. We had so few kids out, that I actually had to step in and play quarterback on offense so our starting quarterback, Nick Hoffard, could get some reps at safety.
I looked around the huddle at my three offensive lineman, one tight end, and my two running backs. “Okay, let’s block this one well,” I said. “Two, twenty six toss. On one.” I said. Since these were freshman, though, I had to add instructions. “Connor make sure you get a good down block on the defensive end. Grady I’ll pitch you the ball. Steve make sure you seal the first linebacker you see on the edge. Grady will follow you and read off your block.”
“Come on guys,” Sam said from just a few feet away from the huddle. “Don’t let the defense push you around. You can do this.”
My “offense” all shook their heads. Then we broke the huddle.
Once the center hiked the ball, I turned and pitched the ball to Grady. He actually gained three yards before the linebacker shed Steve, the fullback, and drove Grady to the ground.
“Okay, huddle up!” I called. “Let’s get some reps and get out of here.”
The defense with coach Loe celebrated like they had just stopped us on fourth and goal in the Super Bowl.
“Okay,” coach Loe called out. “Here’s the deal. If the offense can score a touchdown, practice is done right now.”
Well, that’s wise, I thought. The defense is going to let the offense score, coach. Genius.
“But . . .” Coach Loe yelled.
Ha ha, I thought. There is always a catch. Now that is genius.
“If the offense scores, they get out of conditioning. And the defense has to do double conditioning.”
Instant groans and frighten looks erupted from both sides. I don’t know if this offense can score, Coach, I thought but kept it to myself. Even if you let them try and score . . .
“And if the defense stops you, they get out of conditioning. And the offense has to do double conditioning.”
Well, that’s not fair, I thought. Again, how are we going to score a touchdown? I swear if the six guys on defense fell down, we’d still drop the ball and fail to score.
Instead, I said, “You’re on. Get ready to run double conditioning. Nancies!” I called and waved my offense over to me.
“So what are you going to run?” Sam asked as he poked his head into the huddle.
“Wait,” I said, turning to Sam who was holding the orange basket full of water bottles. “Wait, wait, wait . . . Sam, first give everyone here a shot of water.”
Sam began handing out the water bottles.
“We’re going to need this,” Connor said, spraying the water down his throat. “Because we are going to be doing double conditioning after this play!”
“Ha ha. Not so fast, you Nancy,” I said. I had an idea. “Okay, Sam, here’s the deal. I want you to play wide receiver on this play.”
“But I can’t have any contact,” he said, putting all the water bottles back into the proper slots in the basket.
“I know. I know. No one is going to hit you.”
Like the rest of the offense, he just stared at me.
“Here is what you do. When we break the huddle, leisurely walk over there and stand by the sideline. They will never suspect that you’re actually lined up as a receiver. No one is going to even cover you.”
Heads began to nod as they caught on to my plan.
“Reynolds, must be thinking up some trick play,” Coach Loe called out. “Hurry up, we’re ready for you.”
“Okay, here it is. I’ll fake a dive to Steve. Connor run a shallow drag to draw the linebackers and safety. Grady you run a swing route into the flat. And Sam . . .” I looked at him.
Sam stared me right in the eyes with the biggest grin I had ever seen on a kid.
“Sam, you drop the water bottles as soon as the ball is snapped and run a post. I’ll hit you for the touchdown.”
“Ready! Break!” we yelled, turned around, and sprinted to the line of scrimmage.
“Down,” I called. “Set,” I yelled. “Go!”
I dropped back and first looked to Connor who was covered by both an inside linebacker and safety. Then I looked to Grady in the flat who was covered by an outside linebacker. Then I dropped back one more step, found Sam streaking over the deep middle and sailed a pass right to him.
Sam hauled it in and high stepped his way into the endzone for a touchdown.
“That’s not fair!” yelled Nick from his safety position.
“Hey, you should have covered the deep middle,” I said.
“Okay, okay, okay,” coach Loe hollered raising his hand. “The touchdown will count, but since it was a trick play, all conditioning is off today.”
Again, you’d have thought we just won the Super Bowl.
“Get a break down,” I yelled, running toward the end zone. “On Sam!”
Soon Sam was surrounded by his teammates who were all shouting and giving him high fives. Sam had never broken the team down at the end of practice before. Since he scored the winning touchdown, I thought it only fair.
“What’s our motto?” Sam shouted.
“Lead, follow, or get the heck out of the way,” his teammates yelled.
Then they lifted Sam and carried him off the practice field.