Elysha and I were watching Ted Lasso.
Onscreen, the soccer team was failing to work hard and reach its full potential, so coach Ted Lasso decided that it was time to deploy Lead Tasso, the alter-ego version of the nauseatingly wholesome, relentlessly optimistic, inexplicably charming soccer coach.
Lead Tasso is the Bizarro Superman version of Ted Lasso. An angry, impatient, insulting jerk face.
As we watched Lead Tasso insult and berate the team, I paused the show and asked Elysha, “Do you know what he’s doing?”
“Of course,” she said. “He’s doing what you do.”
“Exactly,” I said.
I’ve always fostered an environment in the classroom where I am the bad guy who needs to be defeated. I don’t berate my students, flip desks, or kick soccer balls at their heads. Instead, I do things to annoy them. I talk excessively about my greatness. Argue that my birthday should be a national holiday. Complain that my students have yet to recognize me as King of the Classroom.
I draw sad faces on their oranges in marker. Write “Mr. Dicks is better than me!” on their whiteboards when they go to the restroom. Claim that absent students remained home to build shrines to me. I torment them so often that students can win “No Teasing” passes – an invention by a former student – to protect them from a day of my nonsense.
I do these things and one million other ridiculous things. It’s all done tongue-in-cheek, awash in false sincerity and humor, but the result is always the same:
It creates an environment wherein my students want to defeat me. Crush my spirit. Destroy my life.
In doing so, they must band together. Support one another. Operate as a single, strategic, determined unit.
They also rarely have the time or inclination to be unkind to one another.
When there is a single enemy to be defeat, people – even fifth graders – will rally to a cause. They will pull on the rope as one. They will become a hardened, supportive, unyielding team.
My nonsense results in humor and fun in the classroom – which are both incredibly important if you want children to love school – but more importantly, it creates a villain that they must survive and perhaps defeat.
Datt Micks may not have the same ring as Lead Tasso, but I’m using the same strategy with decidedly less violence and anger.
But even more importantly than all of that, Elysha knew instantly that Lead Tasso was following my script. I asked her a simple, innocuous question – “Do you know what he’s doing?” – and her response was immediate and certain.
She knows me.
I can’t tell you how happy and joyous it feels to know that the person you love most in this world knows you so fully and completely.
That’s something even Ted Lasso doesn’t have.