I am clearly not too cool for school. In fact, it is safe to say that I’m a fool for school. Every day.
Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. One of the cards that I will always treasure said, “I love how you put yourself out to us and humiliate yourself in front of us, but don’t really care that you did it.”
And I thought they hadn’t noticed.
It is true that I will go to great lengths to make a point. I might break into song at unexpected moments or teach history with weird accents or become (momentarily) the person we are studying. Though I spend hours preparing and planning for school, ultimately each day is a day at the improv– in a g-rated glee kind of way — I just go with it.
But every now and then, I am given an opportunity and I hesitate. Suddenly self-conscious, I freeze. This happened a couple of weeks ago when I was invited to come to the top-secret rehearsals to prepare for a flash mob at the Strawberry Street Festival. Wendy Martin, Fox parent, had a vision to engender support for our public schools and wanted me to be a part of it. No way. What seems whimsical or cool in your twenties and thirties and even forties, is just downright eccentric in your fifties, and decidedly uncool. No. No way. I couldn’t.
But then… I started watching my third graders with their raffle tickets for the Strawberry Street Festival. They were reluctant. It was hard, they said, to go up to strangers and ask them to buy a ticket. We talked about all the things the money went for. Special art programs, classroom programs, trips, tutoring programs, support and appreciation for others… I told them just to start with what they cared about the most and then it wouldn’t be so hard. After a very slow start, they were creeping up to first place in raffle sales.
“We don’t have to be in first place,” I told them, “But I want every one to care enough to participate. Stand up for the things you care about, and learn to help others care, too.”
There were lots of incentives and they earned all of them. They earned the ring pops. They earned the class ice cream party. They earned the pizza party. And then it was announced: “And in first place, so far, Mrs. Campbell’s Third Grade.”
Their cheers could be heard all over the school when it was announced. They kept selling. They positioned themselves in coffee shops, and at sporting events, and they went door to door. They talked about how much they loved our school. And they held the number one spot.
I was approached again and again about the flash mob. I shrank back, resisted, and shook my head. I found out Amelia’s mom was willing to be the first one to start the dancing. She was that brave. Then I heard that our principal and assistant principal were willing to be in the front row. But I just couldn’t. No. Not even the back row.
The Raffle Ticket Sale was over. We’d been holding steady in first place, but one of the moms tipped us off that we didn’t finish there; at the last minute another class took the lead. I told my class that now we had even more to cheer about: more money for our school. We didn’t finish in first place, but we finished strong. And we cheered at the announcement.
I had coached, prodded, pleaded, and cheered as they went out and sold those raffle tickets, because I wanted them to be able to act behalf of something they cared for. Yes it involved risk of rejection, feeling foolish, and humiliation.
Something you care about is worth that risk, right? Wait. What was I saying?
I love how you put yourself out to us and humiliate yourself in front of us, but don’t really care that you did it.
I slinked into the back row of the top-secret rehearsal. I’d missed the first two. I caught up as best I could and practiced at home with the video. Even the rehearsals were scary.
The day came. Flash Mob. In the middle of the festival, we broke out in dance to Dynamite by Taio Cruz. It was a blast. It was so much fun to be with a group of parents, administrators, and teachers who cared that much. I was terrified that I would make mistakes and I did. But we finished strong. With jazz hands. And with signs that read: “Support our community, Public is priceless, Richmond Public Schools”
Too cool for school? Not me. This week I learned that it is super cool to care.
You never cease to amaze me with your insight and your heart. You are such a gift to those children – and to all those around you.
Thank you for your exuberance for life and your passion for children and goodness and hope.
You are a treasure!
YOU and YOUR STUDENTS are what school is all about. It is this passion that keeps us so excited and so willing to ‘step out’ into the unknown. TOGETHER we will ALL make a difference in the lives of children, in public education, and in society. 🙂 Thanks for being who you are!! 🙂
I have no idea of what a flash mob is but I sure wish I has gone to The Strawberry Stree Festival. I thought it was just a row of booths and people who know each well standing around in knots talking.
Thanks for giving my daughter such an exciting and unique way of teaching!! I bet she won’t ever forget her 3rd grader teacher at Fox. 🙂
It’s been a short time in Richmond, but we’re enjoying every moment with people that offer all their time and heart to others…like you…
What a wonderful story, and wonderful teacher you are. I now see why you received that special note. The students surely loved seeing you, & you gave them such an example of what dedicated people do when they are passionate about something. They stand up to be counted! Yes, what you did!
This is a wonderful story. It is so scary to step out of our comfort zone, but exciting when we do. I loved your descriptions of what you were feeling when they asked you to join the flash mob–I was feeling the same thing!
What a great way to inspire. “start with what you care about.” I am sure that your children are inspired by you on a daily basis.
That sounds like such fun! Your students are so privileged to have you as a teacher!
Beautiful words. A true reflection of the beauty inside of you. So glad you are passionate and inspire others with your love of school.
I thoroughly enjoyed your slice. Your organization was perfect. You sound like an amazing teacher! Remember, as teachers, we are automatically cool.
That’s so awesome! I really love how you speak of being afraid at first to go out and try something new yet you obviously put yourself out there as a teacher everyday for your students. In taking risks everyday in the classroom it seemed you gave your students the encouragement needed to sell those raffle tickets. Then they in turn returned your confidence to you by continuing to work towards their goal without letting their fears get the best of them. I really enjoy reading your blogs and seeing how everyday you inspire your students to do great things and without realizing it they too inspire you to continue to do great things and take risks.
No one is too cool for school. Just like you, I feel nervous and anxious about doing certain things at my age. This little voice inside me says, “You’re too old to act that way!” But then I look around and I see lots of people don’t act their age…they act younger! Maybe acting young is the secret fountain of youth!
Anyway, I think it’s great you got up there and had fun with the flash mob. If it makes you feel better, when I go out and exercise in my neighborhood I sing and do a few dances moves (IN PUBLIC) just to make my exercise routine more interesting. Making a fool out of ourselves is the best way to not take ourselves to seriously and to also have fun and enjoy life! 🙂
This piece truly spoke to me, and came to me at the PERFECT time. In recent months a few different people have told me that I should become cynical and not care as much about everything. I wondered…how can I do this?? I tried, I tried to not care about things and people. I failed miserably, it’s just not me! I’m a caring person, and I’m glad you think it’s cool to care too and that there are a lot of other people out there who feel the same. I was also told recently that I act childish for laughing a lot and acting silly, but your story makes me feel much better about that part of myself! Thank you so much!!