The game of cricket has a tradition for courtesy, fair play and upright behavior which is a bit of a laugh for a modern game waist-deep in misdemeanors.
However, when we say that someone’s behaviour is not cricket, we mean that they have not behaved fairly or legitimately. Their behaviour has not been honest, moral or ‘sportsmanlike’.
Unsporting behaviour isn’t just something we see out on the crease, it’s everywhere.
Classrooms are a bit of cricket pitch of their own and we seen stacks of behaviour that just isn’t cricket. But as a teacher you’ve got to play the game.
You might think that you are the umpire. Well, you aren’t. You are batting. Umpires get walked all over and their decisions are often challenged and contested. Even if you give LBW or the middle stump has gone flying, some will refuse to accept they’re out. No, teachers are looking up the crease bat at the ready.
For every ball a pupil bowls your way then you have to have an appropriate defensive stroke ready. And this is where classroom cricket differs from cricket on the pitch. We don’t bat to score runs. We don’t ever want to get bowled, stumped or caught out so we play the ball straight back up the wicket. Our aim is to tire the bowler out.
Children will attack with fast balls and spinners and we have to be ready to deal with those verbally. Our verbal dexterity is our greatest asset although sometimes we can bat things away with just a ‘look’. The teacher look has tremendous power.
But beware. They’ll try and get round you though so expect ball tampering. The ground is always uneven too and the sun can be low and in our eyes.
Being a classroom cricketer is a lonely experience. You have no fielders and no wicket keeper. It’s just you and 30 bowlers all with potential to throw something down the wicket at any moment. You have to stand firm and never drop your guard, not even for a second.
In ‘real’ cricket, the sport has been corrupted by cheats and soiled by illegal, dishonest, immoral and dishonourable conduct. Players have also been allowed to get away with things. In the classroom this doesn’t wash which is why we ignore low-level disruptive behaviour at our peril.
Remember, they pass on the torch of life. Perhaps this poem by Sir Henry Newbolt symbolises the discipline, commitment and selfishness of teachers in playing hard and getting learners to play by the rules:
There’s a breathless hush in the Close tonight –
Ten to make and the match to win –
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote –
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’
Sir Henry Newbolt (1862 – 1938)
When that ball comes down the wicket, we bat back and keep batting until they get the message that we will never leave the crease and never give up on them. But we will play fair.