Drive past the SAA primary playground on any given weekday afternoon, and you’ll be sure to find a group of boys actively playing one of their favorite games―KICKBALL! To boys, it’s just a fun way to compete with friends. But, to teachers...it’s an opportunity to put social/emotional learning into practice.
Even without adult instruction, boys organically learn a variety of skills simply from playing the sport: taking turns, cheering for your teammates, and the always inevitable, handling disappointment.
During a recent game, however, as I watched my students compete on the field, I quickly noticed that the idea of “winning” was becoming more important than “kindness.” Little arguments about stealing, outs, and foul balls were suddenly the norm. The boys wanted to be deemed “champions” even if that meant losing sight of the commonly cherished idea of “brotherhood.”
Watching from the sidelines, it was apparent that a mini-intervention was needed. It was time to dust off the tennis shoes and join in the fun. It was time for Ms. Kramme and Mrs. Weis to play kickball!
Perhaps simply by our own willingness to step out onto that sweltering turf—as “motherly” participants no less —one student in particular found that same act of courage within himself. You see, this was his first time EVER to participate in kickball. Yet, here he was in the middle of the field, ready to tackle his fear. In fact, he later shared with me that he had been “scared to play” because he thought other boys might get mad at him if he made a mistake.
Here and now was the opportunity to put kindness into action; to help someone even if it meant putting aside my own competitive spirit by sacrificing a win. I’d like to say that it was easy. However, nothing is easy when you are working with intensely driven six and seven-year-olds!
Yes, there were a few groans when the “newbie” could barely kick the ball and an occasional eye-roll when he was too timid to catch a “pop-up.” Though, nothing a little pinch of teacher modeling, a dash of patience, and a smidgeon of (gentle) reminders couldn’t tackle.
By the next game, all were ready to once again compete, but this time, not at the expense of kindness. Feelings of frustration quickly turned into words of encouragement. “Here, let me show you.” “Let’s give it another try.” “That’s how you do it!” It was music to my ears when another boy, one who happens to be a fierce athlete, whispered in my ear, “Can I have [the new player] on my team? I want to be able to help him.”
That very day you could say that the game of (primary school) kickball was saved, and that the Bond of Brothers® mantra was renewed on the playground. And, losing a game of kickball was totally worth it, too. I suppose we all grew that day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
- Bond of Brothers
- social emotional learning