A Unique Show of Spirit

December 4, 2010 by  
Filed under My Writing

Students appreciate when teachers demonstrate commitment and take that extra step (in this case, literally!) for them.  My fingers are flying on the keyboard because I’m still on a high from the success of an initiative I coordinated at my school – an initiative to showcase our staff’s unity and commitment to the spirit of our school.

This video showcases just how inspiringly excited the students were over the fabulous staff participation!  One of the teachers up front, you can’t tell here, but she’s got goosebumps! 😉

It all started thanks to my former high school French teacher.  She shared a video on FB this past May, depicting what her colleagues at Leyden Township conjured up at an assembly to surprise the students.  I was so inspired by this “flash mob” performance that I instantly wanted to do it!!  We’ve never done anything of the sort at my school, and I knew that the students would absolutely love it.  I imagined teachers, administrators, secretaries, custodians – everyone – to be out there on the gym floor.  During the last week of school in June, I proposed the idea to my principal for the following year.  He didn’t hesitate to say, “Go for it,” nor did he blink when I told him the catch – he had to dance smack dab in the center!!!

Over the summer, I brainstormed songs to use and dabbled with WavePad to mix the music.  I choreographed the majority of the dance and divided it into four sections with the idea that more staff members would enter at each point until the gym floor was completely full.  My principal and I decided the Winter Sports assembly in December would allow enough time for coordination.  That seemed ions away but as all teachers know, every year seems to trickle away faster than the last.  The middle of October crept in quickly and I finalized the dance with the help of two wonderful cheerleading coaches at my school.  Finally, it was time to announce the big event.  At an all-staff meeting, I explained the flash mob and emphasized that we must keep this a secret from students – hence the whole idea behind a flash mob, a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place and perform a surprise act.  I shared a mob video – there was so much laughter in the auditorium, I knew I had them all hooked . . . or so I thought. . .

When dealing with 200+ people, you can’t please them all.  About a week later, when I sent out the email detailing rehearsals I started to get a little slack:  “This really isn’t a good time with everything else we have going on” or “I can’t dance.”  I didn’t get discouraged, knowing all worthy causes require a little effort.  I sent out a second email explaining that participation was completely voluntary, that rehearsals were not mandatory, and that I’d be placing instructional videos online so that people could practice at home at their own convenience – including from the back (the key to making dance instruction easy).

I became a little nervous about participation with only about 25-40 people coming to rehearsals at a time. hmmm . . .  As time drew closer, more started to trickle in but I still was nervous because we never practiced as a whole group. With a late start date scheduled the Tuesday before our Friday performance,  I asked administration for just a half-hour before PLC work to congregate in the gym for an all-staff run-through.  That was when I knew it was a guaranteed success – I was floored by the turnout!  With the microphone in one hand, I excitedly walked everyone through Section 4 (the last section in which those that never came to a rehearsal would enter upon).  They mastered it within two takes.  We ran through the whole thing a few times, I got goosebumps, and called it a rap.

The rest of the week was nothing but thrilling . . . Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I couldn’t walk in the hallway without a teacher or staff member exclaiming excitement:  “Thank you for making my retirement year so memorable” or “I was sick all last month, and now I have something to look forward to” or “We needed something like this to boost morale around here.”  WOW, let me just say it is a dream to have such a supportive administrative, faculty and staff!!!

For those thinking about coordinating this at your own school, the instructional videos turned out to be invaluable.  With my Flip camera, we taped 6 instructional videos:  1 front view of entire dance with music, 1 back view of entire dance with music (back view to ease coordination), and 1 of each ‘section’ in which I “walk through” and explain each step without the music (all back view).  I placed the videos on YouTube, keeping them on ‘private’ to avoid prying eyes.  There were many people who practiced entirely at home and surprisingly showed up at a last-minute rehearsal completely familiar the routine.

The bottom line is just as many of the staff members left their comfort zone to try something new, we’re asking students to not be afraid to ‘put themselves out there’ and join new clubs, take on more challenges in the classroom and commit to the spirit of our school.  The flash mob proved an exciting, memorable way to get that message across.

A+ to the teachers, teacher assistants, administrators, guidance counselors, and support staff who kept this a complete secret, made the commitment to learn this dance and shoved aside any hesitations to act silly in front of the students.  A+ to the students for being the best audience ever!!  They kept us motivated to move just as they keep us motivated to inspire in the classroom.

Here’s a closer recording taken by one of my students.  You don’t get the impact of the overwhelming number of participants but it’s a clearer view of the dance itself: