Sitting on the sidelines


In her poem, “Summer Day,” poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” This quote has been hanging in my classroom this week to inspire my students, and it has caused me to stop and reflect as well, wondering if the investments I am making are worth the cost (minutes, hours, days of my “wild and precious life”).

If you know me very well, you know that I spend a considerable amount of time on the sidelines.  No, it’s not my lack of skill that relegates me to the sidelines.  I’m there as a spectator.  I’m not spectating because I love any of the sports that I watch; I’m there because I love the kids who are playing–my students.  Are those hours spent on Saturday at little league basketball, nights spent watching jv soccer, time spent running around a cross country event trying to cheer on the students several times in the races, ect. worth it?  Do they matter to the students, or are they just a way of passing my time?  Sometimes I wonder about this, especially at 8 am on a Saturday when I would love to be sleeping, but I find myself supporting several students at a game.

To gauge success, it is important to know what the goal is. Only after knowing the goal can one determine if it has been hit.  So what is the goal of my attendance at these games?  What messages am I trying to convey to my students?  Here’s a list of a few things:

  • You are more than a test score
  • You are important
  • You are loved
  • I’m your fan
  • We’re on the same team
  • School is important, but so are the other parts of your life
  • My support of you isn’t contingent on your behavior in my classroom, your grades, or the score of this game

Those are the messages that I’m sending, and I know they are being received because I continue to hear the following:

  • Mr. G, are you coming to my game this weekend?
  • We’re playing ___’s team tomorrow
  • Thanks for coming to my game
  • Did you see (insert specific highlight from the game)?

Even when my students are quiet, their smiles, high fives, and fist bumps let me know that they heard.

Will the innumerable hours I’ve spent on the sidelines of athletic events over the past 15 years of my career actually improve the lives of my students?  Will it help them grow into more successful adults (however you define success)?  Who knows.  What it will do is provide some assurance as they navigate some of the toughest times of their lives–middle school.  Perhaps my positive voice on the sidelines will prove to be a calm harbor in the stormy seas that students face every day.  Perhaps for some it might even be a lighthouse, helping students navigate away from danger and toward safety.  Perhaps one day, I’ll see some of those kids I cheered for cheering with me for a new group of kids.  I’ll see you on the sidelines.



About tkslibrarian

Middle school science teacher--hoping to inspire wonder
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