With the 2018 school year winding down, it is time to sit back and reflect on the year that was. Many teachers take this time to reflect on test scores, student academic growth, and instructional practice around this time of year, as they seem to be easily measured and tracked as the calendar goes on. I, on the other hand, choose to reflect on what has become an annual year-long project that also measures student growth: my student’s ability to have empathy for others, the ability to put other’s needs before their own, the ability to leave their comfort zone for a greater good, and to seek out a peer in need of love and raise them up to let them know they matter. This growth and more was evident in flashmob 2018 and the #inspirechange movement.
Before I go on, here are some snippets from previous blog posts to highlight the genesis and evolution of the #inspirechange movement via flashmobbing. Click the links to be brought to those blog posts for full stories and links to videos of flashmob performances.
For those who don’t know, my classes have taken on an identity of a class that flash mobs as a way to inspire random acts of kindness, positive atmosphere in the building, and most importantly, bring smiles to those who need it most. In a nutshell, 4 years ago, a student gave my class a random act of kindness in the form of a nice card and asked us to pay it forward. We did so by creating a small dance for a student who was devastated after breaking a prized wooden owl and presented her with a new stuffed owl puppet via a flashmob performance. You can read about that tear-jerking moment, and view the simple genesis of the flashmob dance #inspirechange movement here:
The following year, I looped with the same group of kids and they wanted to continue the flashmob tradition so we upped our game, added costumes that I bought, acquired custom t-shirts from a group of colleagues, and upped the difficulty of the dance, requiring us to start working on day one of school. Shortly into the school year, the boy, who started the whole thing with the random act of kindness suffered the loss of his father. Naturally, we had our next target. This time students raised their own money and I matched it to get him a nice basketball, a gift card to Game Stop, and some treats. You can read about this uplifting chain of events and watch the routine here:
The following year, the tradition continued with another heartfelt case and an even fancier routine that can be seen here:
The 2017 routine of all routines featured stripped down jazz performance of Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s Love Never Felt So Good to open the show. I recruited some teacher friends of mine to form the band and two brave boys sang the melody. The dance version followed the live musical performance. This action can be seen in this blog post:
That brings us to 2018. It is now a part of my first day activity set to review the history to the #inspirechange movement. After 5 years of routines, the cat is already out of the bag and purring loudly as the new group of students arrive in September so I feel it is pointless to keep any secrets about the mission. In fact, I actively recruit them to be active stakeholders in the majority of decisions that need to be made throughout the process, which establishes instant engagement.
After watching videos and revisiting the history of #inspirechange, I drew attention to a painting of a quote in our room that reads:
“Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind; The second is to be kind; And the third is to be kind.”
We first learn to show ourselves kindness by being proactive and controlling what we can control. Once we work on that, we learn to treat our classroom family members with respect and kindness. I model this from day one as I make a formal promise to my class that I’d treat them like my very own child. From there, we learn to search outside the classroom family to notice and spread kindness. That is when we take stock and notice someone who is in need of our flashmob act of kindness.
When we sat down to discuss potential targets for our kindness, one girl stood out amongst the others. Despite the nearly 30-item list of reasons she could use some kindness, there was a girl who would give the shirt off her back no matter what people say or do to her. Mayher was an obvious choice.
Here is where the little twist comes in. Normally, we do a little research on our flashmob target to uncover things she likes so we can purchase some surprise gifts. Students chip in money and I always promise to match their donation. Once we had $100 in hand, we sent a representative to ask Mayher (and some other kids so we wouldn’t look too suspicious) what she would do if she had that kind of money. Her response was amazing. Rather than have material things, she would prefer to rescue a pet and give money to homeless. While we all nearly melted upon hearing this, we quickly decided that we would still get her some loot, but also raise a bit more money to donate $100 to the Niagara County SPCA to go towards homeless pets. What an amazing lesson of selflessness! The students, once again, picked an amazing recipient.
On the day of the big surprise, we planted a candy bar and a bottle of ginger ale in Mayher’s locker with a note saying that it was going to be a great day.
We piled up all the gifts and a check to the SPCA on the reading table in the classroom.
With the gifts ready, it was game time. Here are some pictures as we pulled Mayher out of class to give her a surprise that she’d never forget.
Following the performance for Mayher, we took our act to a 7 Habits assembly, where we told the story of #inspirechange and performed for the school. The video can be seen here: Flashmob2018
As the dust settles on another amazing story and school year, I sit back and reflect with pride. I’m proud of how my kids were able to be open and honest about how others are treated. I’m proud of how my kids were able to know who the perfect flashmob target would be. I’m proud of all the personal money they donated to make Mayher’s wishes come true. I’m proud of all those kids who said they would never dance but did anyway. I’m proud of the student who wouldn’t ever practice with the class, but ended up performing time after time for the good of the cause. I’m proud of all the academic growth, with a healthy dose of empathy, compassion, selflessness, and bravery on top of it. I’m one lucky classroom “dad”.