You say you want a revolution?
When I was a kid, I went to a huge elementary school (word up to all my Jenks East fools!) I started there in the middle of first grade, and I distinctly remember my mom’s shock at the thousands-strong K-5 campus. (‘There are 16 class sections of first grade? Your last school had four!’) However, I adjusted well and totally loved my mega-elementaryplex. I settled into a happy groove over the years as I kicked multiplication table ass (except the 12 column, which for some reason was incredibly difficult for me) and square danced my dorky little heart out in PE. Thankfully, by this point, my mullet was gone. Had I still been rockin’ it, I could have easily died of being far too awesome to actually exist.
One of the best things about my school was obviously the recess en masse. I truly can’t believe this now, and maybe things have changed, but twenty years ago, hundreds of children would descend on the largest of our three playgrounds at once, and- I swear to you- there were maybe four adults present. These were the teacher aides, brave souls donning reflective yellow vests, presumably so we kids would know exactly who to be on the lookout for when we wanted to break the rules. Not that I spent a lot of time breaking the rules.
Most kids spent the midday break playing tag or tetherball or hitting the monkey bars. However, my friend Raashee and I were both hopelessly un-athletic. We did all sorts of cool non-sporty activities like putting acorns in a straight line and singing Seal’s Kiss From A Rose.
Did you know that when it snows, my eyes become large and the light that you shine can be seen? BAYBAY!
So one sunny afternoon in the 4th grade, Raashee and I were minding our own business, sitting near acorn row and likely discussing the finer points of Superfudge or Ticonderoga pencils or something, when a nearby group of 5th grade boys began to cause a ruckus. Raashee and I were scared at first and we probably looked like this:
But then we were all, ‘Ooh, this is gonna be good’:
From what we gathered, they had been playing real football, and one of the aides approached the group and told them that only touch football was allowed. Now as an adult, this seems perfectly sensible- the aide was attempting to enforce a rule designed to prevent broken bones and black eyes. However, the 5th grade boys were outraged. They were livid. There was screaming. They were being completely bratty and awful. Another aide arrived on the scene.
“You WON’T let us play pogs, you WON’T let us play football, you WON’T let us have fun!” one boy asserted.
The boys egged each other on, and more and more kids were coming around to see what was going on. Within moments, a full-on mob had developed. Raashee and I joined the group, now hundreds strong, running in a massive clump across the dusty playground, chasing a helpless pair of yellow-vested teacher aides, shaking our tiny fists of rage. (Most of the kids in the stampede didn’t even know the catalyst was the tackle football issue; it just seems that if there is a large group of children running around screaming, other children will join in just for a good chance to run and scream.)
Ultimately, The Great Tackle Football Riot of 1994 ended with one aide taking control of the situation and radioing for backup. The principal came out, told us she was ashamed of our behavior, and sent us all to our respective classrooms immediately.
The other aide, panicked and sweaty, had crawled through a big concrete drain pipe out onto 91st Street and was speedwalking eastward, away from the scene.
It sounds totally, undeniably insane. It was crazy. But I promise you this bizarre Lord-Of-The-Fliesesque tale is absolutely true.
Later that afternoon, the principal came over the intercom and announced that all 5th grade boys had their recess rights revoked for an entire week. The rest of us ultimately went back to our usual recess routines, and the incident faded into the past.
When my dad picked me up that afternoon, he turned down the radio and asked “So how was school today? Do anything fun?
“Nah. It was just a regular day.” I answered.
And in a way, it was.