Paying it Forward

Over the past few months, I have made numerous references to flash mobbing and my exhaustive search to come up with a package of items on donorschoose.org.  Many have been asking what I’ve been up to and in order to shed some light, I’ve decided to give the background information on the crazy, weird, and utterly amazing antics my class and I have been engaged in.  Now keep in mind that these antics have a bit of secrecy attached and I will not be able to tell too much – just enough to paint a basic picture.

The story began last year during the 2013-2014 school year.  Another 4th grade teacher and I split Science and Social Studies duties, with me taking on all 46 students at a time for Science, and my colleague doing the same for Social Studies.  Long story short, one of her boys, “Kevin” (name changed to protect identity), came into my room at the end of the day.  I thought it was to ask what he missed that day because he and a group of other boys were working with our counselor during the Science period.  Instead, he dropped off a note, flashed a big smile, and ran out of the room.  Intrigued, I opened it up.

Dear Mr Udy,

Thank you for teaching me everything about sience (science). You’re a great teacher.

Love,

Kevin

P.S. This is a RAK random act of kindness. Pay it forward!

After I mopped up my melted heart from the feet of my other students, who were interested in the candy bar that was attached to the note, I asked them what we could do to pay it forward. After a few silly suggestions, a few girls piped up and suggested we do something nice for “Lisa”, a student in Kevin’s class, who was having a really rough day and spent most of Science in tears.

You see, Lisa loves Harry Potter and owls.  LOVES them.  Her teacher knew this and gave her a special wooden owl to watch over her whenever she was feeling sad or discouraged.  Unfortunately, this owl had an unfortunate accident and fell into disrepair. 

Lisa was inconsolable.  

That was it! We ordered a plush owl puppet from Amazon and brainstormed a creative way to present it.  One day when I was serenading a student at the end of the day to James Taylor’s Your Smiling Face along with some nerdy dance moves (don’t ask), a few girls yelled, “Let’s do a flashmob!!!!”

By this time, it was January.  I had my reservations about doing a flashmob but the kids insisted!  We set a goal for June and got busy practicing.  We learned the moves little by little with an initial group of 8 kids.  The others were bashful at first, but after they saw how much fun we were having, decided to join in….even the shiest of the shy!  We practiced for 15 minutes every Friday before dismissal time.  Each day, Lisa would stop by just to say goodbye.  I’d ask her if she liked owls and dancing.  My kids would giggle in the background as Lisa looked at me funny and asked me why I would keep asking her that.  I would just tell her that I just wanted to know and that was it.

As the end of the year was quickly approaching, our moves were coming together nicely.  Our entire class had now decided to participate and our group had to take our rehearsals to the playground in order to have enough space.

What surprised me most of all was how different groups of friends came together and initiated practices all on their own.
What surprised me most of all was how different groups of friends came together and initiated rehearsals without prompting.

As May came to a close, we had to put the final touches on the plan.  We created t-shirts that had a smiling face on the front with #smile written on the back.  Some students brought in hats and sunglasses to accent their appearance.  We made arrangements to have Lisa’s class run their Reader’s Workshop in the library on a specific day and time, where we would be hiding, ready to carry out the surprise.

On June 4th, we were ready to carry out the plan.  We changed into our shirts and hid amongst the stacks of books.  Our bluetooth speaker and iPads were in place to record the event.  As Lisa’s class settled in to read independently, the “Bus Talk” song from the movie A Bronx Tail came blaring out of the speaker.  As jazz notes filled the air, three of my boys sauntered out of hiding to get the props in order, which included a microphone for me, and a stool for Lisa.  A third boy walked over to Lisa, bowed, and asked for her hand. After a moment of hesitation, Lisa accepted the invitation and was escorted to her stool.

What a gentleman! His only instructions were to bring Lisa to her chair! What a guy!
What a gentleman! His only instructions were to bring Lisa to her chair! What a guy!
Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone....or leap!
Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone….or leap!

Shortly after Lisa was situated, the show began as three boys and I kicked off the flashmob.  Little by little, the entire class joined in and were having a blast!

(The following link is the unedited footage and is highly embarrassing!!! Ahhhh!)  

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6Bq7Kq_cESdQUZTZ2ZEdU5Idzg/edit?usp=docslist_api

At the conclusion of the song, we delivered a stunned Lisa a gift bag that included the new owl as her speechless classmates looked on. The card read:

Lisa, you have been flashmobbed! We hope you enjoy your new owl! This has been a RAK random act of kindness,  Pay it forward! 

Love,

Mr Udy’s class

We didn’t stick around to see her reaction, partly because of how embarrassed we were as the audience grew in the library.  From what I’m told, Lisa cried….this time with a #smile plastered across her face from ear to ear.

In reflection, I am still in awe at what transpired on the that June day.  All the work that was put into this operation: the teamwork, the kept secret, the boys who were resistant and now fighting for front row positions all gave me a feeling of satisfaction that my class learned something greater than any lesson plan I presented that year.  This was confirmed when Lisa came to the room on the last day of school with a river of tears cascading down her face.  One of the boys stopped what he was doing and yelled, “Looks like we have some #smiles to spread!” Before I knew it, the stool and microphone were in position, Lisa was sitting, and James Taylor was playing with 6 boys and 2 girls doing their best to make the last day of school a special one for Lisa. Sadly, I couldn’t get my phone out fast enough to capture the spontaneous moment.

It turns out I didn’t need my phone as those images remain in my heart to this day.

…Which brings me to today.

I have the same class this year thanks to a grade 4-5 loop. We are looking to go bigger and better than last year.  We have a secret target in mind and have been rehearsing a more sophisticated dance routine called the “MJ Slide”.  We would love to outfit the entire class with black fedoras and aviator sunglasses, hence my efforts to find vendors on donorschoose.org to fund this great operation.  I would tell you more, but the target for this year is a secret.  What I can say is that this act of kindness is well-deserved and the story will melt your heart.  I can’t wait to tell you more!

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3 thoughts on “Paying it Forward

  1. Angela March 14, 2015 / 12:28 pm

    I’m not sure if you know how well acquainted I am with RAK-loving kids. I’ve seen my fair share of RAK endeavors over the years. THIS. IS. THE. BEST. ONE. EVER. I am in tears. Those pictures are priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

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