Today’s notification for June 12th, 2019, from Google: Many Field Day photographs like this one.
- Kids in Field Day tee shirts with their homeroom names that they meticulously planned out, in some cases spending more time on this than on any project during the year.
- Lots of smiling faces on – mostly – sunny, low-humidity days, or at least that’s how I remember it. (There were rain dates, though I don’t remember using them very often.)
- Kids tied together in three-legged races, or running with balls on giant spoons, or throwing beanies on a target.
- The tug of war between staff on both teams (which I did one time only – what was I thinking? I had to lose 30 years and get back surgery to be a true contender here), and the water balloon toss, students first and then teachers. At least those who didn’t win – and that would always be me – got a good soaking.
Of course, as these were games, Blue against Grey, there were also cries of “no fair” and “they cheated” echoing through the field, and well as “go, go GO” and “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” and “No – no – this is how you have to do it” to one’s own teammates. Because winning mattered. It mattered so very much. Until the day was over, and we all moved on.
Yes, I was one of the ones desperate to win. I hated myself for it. But game-playing and sports in general weren’t my strong suits, and I felt I would otherwise let my students down. I wasn’t known as the “fun teacher,” even though we had a lot of laughs, through the years, in my room (generally at my expense, but I could give it back pretty well to those students I knew could take it); I was too serious about my subject matter for that. However, for Field Day, I had to stretch myself past my usual limits. And so I wanted, desperately, to win at least some of our games.
And, except for one year when we lost all but one, my team did okay. High fives all around.
Actually, for many, many years, the seventh grade in my school didn’t have a Field Day, as it was really an elementary school end-of-year event. But the sixth grade added one, and then the eighth grade (who already had an end-of-year big trip, as they were the graduating seniors, but anything that could be done to keep them engaged and functioning until the day of graduation was worth doing). The seventh grade instead had a peer leadership event in May which involved all sorts of team building and anti-drug activities, such as wearing what the kids referred to as the “drunk goggles,” and that was quite enough for me.
So no, I didn’t start off as a fan of Field Day. I tolerated it, though, and tried to act enthusiastic about it, because most of my teammates – some of whom had come from sixth grade, where they had participated in Field Days for years – really wanted it. The biggest problem, in my mind, was that once Field Day happened, it felt like school was over – and I was always tight on time for our most important unit of the year, as the students scrambled to complete their displays for the Museum of Tolerance and Acceptance. And there were closure activities I wanted to go through, discussions I still felt I needed to have – and once Field Day came, it would all be erased, in a way.
And then we were told that we no longer could use the term “Field Day”: not curricular-sounding enough? Instead, it would be called “Team Building Day.” That just bothered me. Come on! It was the end of the school year, and the students had learned – or not learned – as much as they would be able to. I realized that as long as my students finished their work on the museum, with enough time for them to visit and reflect, it would have to be enough.
It was time for these kids to be kids. And I realized that I was really okay with it.
This year, there is no Field Day, or Team Building Day, or whatever you want to call it. Without a lot of fanfare, the year is ending, though teachers are trying hard to offer virtual field trips, including those to Disney World and Universal.
So I’m glad that, at least for those last few years, I let myself cheer, and jump up and down, and pose for pictures, and wear silly tee shirts, and that I wasn’t pretending.
Somehow, we had made it to this point, all of us: students and colleagues alike. A little shouting was in order.