Fans watched young football players take the field on that fall day in 1978. My fifth grade friends and I stood on the sideline wearing our blue and white sweaters with matching skirts and cheering for our team, the Lions. Wanting to get the crowd involved, Mandy (our squad’s captain) led us in a cheer:
“Give me an L!”
“L!” we shouted.
“Give me an . . .”
After a few more letters, we enthusiastically asked the fans, “What’s that spell?”
The crowd responded with a doubtful “Lions?”
Certain they could do better, Mandy began the cheer again. Just then, I saw my mother leave her seat in the stands. She looked concerned as she jogged down the stairs over to our rowdy group.
“Girls,” my mom said calmly as we gathered around her, “lions is spelled l-i-o-n-s.”
“That’s what we said,” we insisted.
“No,” said my mom. “That’s not what you said. It’s l-i-o-n-s.” She turned and walked back to the bleachers leaving us in our huddle. Suddenly one of us realized our mistake. Red-faced, we did the only thing we could: we turned around, began the cheer again, and spelled the word correctly, as if we had said it that way all along. Standing there, I couldn’t believe I’d been so caught up in the moment that I’d neglected to think about what I was shouting. My cheerleading squad was the first in history to cheer for . . . the LOINS.
My mom did the right thing that day. She heard us making a mistake and rushed to kindly show us the error of our ways. She did not shame us. She did not yell at us. She just let us know that what we were saying was not really helping our team.
I’d love to say that was the last time I parroted a word or phrase that someone else spoke before me, but it wasn’t. Sometimes, caught up in the moment, I repeat what I have heard to anyone who’s willing to join in and “shout it out” with me. It’s easy to do. Instead I need to listen, think, and then speak.
How beneficial to students in our classes, to our co-workers, and to our world for us to hear gossip or see a mistake-in-motion and step in to kindly say, “let’s get cheering for our team again.” Our classroom team. Our teaching team. Our school team. Our world team.
More than ever, students need to see us modeling this behavior. Rather than being quick to shout out, what if we all listened, thought, and then spoke? How would it change Facebook posts, tweets, texts, and classroom conversations? What might the ripple effects be? Imagine us all working together to show kids the best way to cheer our teams on to victory.