What do you do when you and your students are researching a current American hero and they “go wild”? I work at an International Baccalaureate school where we promote taking action on societal issues. After much discussion with colleagues and students, I wrote a letter to inform Red Sox starting pitcher, Rick Porcello, of his behavior and its effects on my lesson plans and students. On opening day at Spring Training in Ft. Myers, I gave the letter to Porcello along with a gift bag of children’s books. Porcello read the first sentence of the letter and asked me to explain its contents. He and I professionally discussed his actions and their consequences. It was a polite encounter. It was short, to the point, and given out of great kindness to awaken him to his part in educating American children.
It would be easy for him to remember the things I said because my name is Miss Carlee Soto; it is stitched across his chest while on away games. S-O-T-O sits in the middle of b-O-S-T-O-n. Yes, that is a gifted child’s noticing. On August 3rd, Porcello pitched a one-hitter that nearly cost Kane’s furniture 100 million dollars. How do I know this? Because students researched that fact at our school library.
I came into school at the start of this year like never before, a light bulb shining inside. Joyful. Rested. What was new in my teaching world? Baseball! On Porcello’s winning night with the Yankees, his pitch-beat to Leon was a striking sound I hadn’t heard since I was 14 years old. It was the same as Pettitte to Posada. Impressed, I began sharing Porcello’s gifted accomplishments with children over the following months and telling the story of how baseball impacted my life. That’s my job: encouraging students to actively research heroes to emulate and gain strategies for success! To write!
So we began researching his career. He received the Cy Young award. He’s from New Jersey. He has a German shepherd puppy named Bronco. His favorite charity to support is Team Joseph. We researched if there were any meet-and-greets for my students to ask questions as a primary source. We found an online auction to get a pitching lesson from him, but the reserve was $2,500. More facts were collected from August to October. Parents were involved. We started talks about fictional baseball stories and digital storytelling with podcasts.
Porcello’s wild sinker-ball to our plans happened on October 29, 2018. I was touring IB schools in Canada, wondering if anyone in his realm was advising him about his behaviors. In the locker room, wild celebration is one thing, but then the news reports from the victory parade surfaced. We saw the footage. It crossed the line. My project-based learning lesson plans on heroes fell apart like a cracked bat. The slogan for the 2018 Red Sox was “Do Damage,” and damage he did.
Nailed in the chest, I was forced to switch students’ focus from him to Nathan Eovaldi. Nathan Eovaldi: The man who took it to the 18th in the World Series – lost, made Rick cry, and became a folk hero for his depth of character. I was hoping I was steering my aspiring student pitchers in the correct direction as I scrambled to piece together my ruined model example. But with the player’s raunchy images, that halted; it was going to be impossible to promote the team by association.
As a peer, his behavior was alarming and undeniable. Students are always studying me and they were studying him. What do you do? What do you do when someone goes off the rails like that without any consequences? Well, you tell them. Make them aware of the conflict so they can absorb reality and know their true weight and worth in the world. Or at least encourage them to bring it up with their coaches. This was a lesson in intrinsic self.
When we met on February 22, I asked Porcello to take some steps to read again. If I were drunk while representing my esteemed, privileged, blessing of a profession that I earned from years of good work, I would be jailed. He makes 400 times more than a highly effective teacher. His one-year salary would give 5,000 teachers a $4,000 raise. Some of these players have contracts that would solve broken AC units in dozens of schools in America.
Porcello didn’t appreciate the encouraging message to reflect and get back on track. Nothing for the students involved in this decay? Are the Red Sox sheltering a player who should be held accountable for drunk and disorderly conduct and indecent exposure? These players are around our children all of the time. They interact with kids, yet are not held to a higher standard of behavior? My students want to know why.
I decided to spin all of these events into positive and enriching lessons. March 24th – April 8th was my media team’s ethics and communications training. When I communicated with the Red Sox, students read my writing samples. We studied vocabulary, word choice, and structure. We discussed character education and tied the Learner Profile traits of the IB curriculum into our discussion about digital citizenship. We discussed profiling in our society, security measures, and what type of action to take when you feel unsafe. Meanwhile, kids are still seeing Porcello having meltdowns on the mound and in the dugout. Headlines about his performance echoed our sentiments. That was interesting to deal with day-to-day for two months with students in the library. Only during the series I attended on Saturday did he balance (no win, no loss).
When are sports figures and celebrities going to be held accountable to the community for their behavior as all teachers are expected to behave? When will they be required to take professional development training on ethics and self-management skills? When will teachers be paid in conjunction to their value for our country? When is this wealth distribution going to change so people in the trenches can actually live a quality life? These are the questions I would like answered.