Synergize: Together is Better

Our school is a Leader in Me school, which promotes Sean Covey’s Seven Habits of Happy Kids.  This past Friday, June 5, 2015, my class was called to take an active role in a student-led assembly that promoted habit number 6: Synergize – Together is Better.   If you scroll back a few posts, you will stumble upon a post entitled “Pay it Forward”, where you will see why my class was a good pick to help in this assembly as we have been known to flashmob the school from time to time.  Here is the story of Flashmob 2015:

Please allow me to briefly summarize how the flashmob originated.  Last year, while teaching two classrooms worth of fourth graders science, a young man from my colleague’s class walked in with a card with candy stuck on it that simply said, “Thank you for teaching me science and social studies so well.” Now these kids know that my heart can be won easily with candy and sweet words so I wondered what he was up to.  He simply said that it was a random act of kindness and to pay it forward…and pay it forward we did.  We decided to learn some dance moves and flashmob his classmate, who was having more bad days than good lately, and present her with a gift of a stuffed owl puppet, which she adored.  Rumor of our dance prowess didn’t go unnoticed and before we knew it, we were asked to perform at our school talent show, where my kids brought the house down!  Finally, to pay it forward for receiving an owl puppet, my girls were taught some extra special moves this year, which left us back in the pay it forward role.

While we pondered our next move, we decided early on this year, the second year of a grade 4 to 5 loop, that we wanted to do a bigger and better flashmob, complete with complex moves and costumes.  Who am I to say no to that? So I enlisted the help of a friend, who directed me to a video of the MJ Slide, a dance created by Shawn Powell to the song You’re My Star, by Tank.

Now for someone like me who doesn’t dance, this was going to be quite a task.  I spent endless hours in front of the bathroom mirror trying to learn this routine to the point where I could teach it and not embarrass myself…. too much.

It was very early on in the school year, when I unveiled the new song and routine.  After morning announcements were complete,  I turned on the music and danced without explanation.  I received a lot of laughs that morning, but this scene would become a daily routine.  As the announcements ended, I’d grab my fedora, sunglasses, and dance my way to the stage before teaching math each day.  Can you think of a better way to start the day?

It didn’t take long before I had some imitators in the back of the room each morning, which I allowed to happen. Before long, I was getting emails from parents about how boys were sleeping over each other’s houses, borrowing their sibling’s or parent’s iPads to find the song to practice.  That’s when I knew I had them hooked.

After a few weeks, I started to teach students who weren’t in chorus or band the moves, little by little.  In the matter of days, I had some experts trained, and I passed the baton to them to get the others up to speed on their own time.

These three took the lead and were the first to perfect the moves.
These three took the lead and were the first to perfect the moves.

As we entered the winter months, most of the class had the basic moves mastered and I had a lot of company dancing each morning  before math.  Those who weren’t comfortable dancing yet were placed by the door as “look out” specialists in case an “intruder” was lurking outside for any unannounced visits.  Kids were requesting the final 5 minutes before dismissal for practice time and some were even asking to practice in place of free time!  Even our Halloween and Christmas parties featured the MJ Slide! I couldn’t possibly say no to that either!

Ever see a hotdog dance?
Ever see a hotdog dance?
Some students used their free time to practice.  Even those die-hard readers were into it!
Some students used their free time to practice. Even those die-hard readers were into it!

While the dance was happening on a daily basis, it still had little to no effect on instructional time and since they were so into it, I thought it would be time to order some costumes.  Twenty-five fedoras, sunglasses, and t-shirts soon made their way into the classroom, where students were told they must earn each item with their behavior, effort, and teamwork.   Before you know it, leaders emerged from the pack and were pulling the shy, less motivated students aside for private dance lessons in line for dismissal, lunch, and on the way to the bus.  Videos of students practicing in their homes were beginning to make their way onto YouTube! The synergy was happening and these kids were hooked!

IMG_5525 IMG_5450As the spring months arrived, it was time to pick a target for the flashmob.  Unfortunately, the boy who started the random act of kindness lost his father this year.  It was very difficult for me to watch him go through that, so what better way to help cheer him up and to pay it forward to him! The class was on board, we raised some money for some gifts, and went into final rehearsal mode.  With June on the horizon, we took some recess time and started practice together in class and on the stage.  Believe it or not, by this time, we only needed a quick run through each time and that was it.  We were ready.

IMG_5843 IMG_5852

IMG_5833We made arrangements for our “target” to be in the computer lab with his class.  We hid in the library, all dressed up, and were ready to spring into action.  After a few technical difficulties the deed was done, with a boy in awe, and a class of stunned onlookers left in our wake.  Unfortunately, the video was blurry so I’ve added some still photos in its place.IMG_6099 IMG_6101 IMG_6107 IMG_6110 IMG_6112 IMG_6114 IMG_6144

Finally, it was time to perform for the school.  Upon being called to the stage, I rehashed the history of the flashmob, why we engaged in such an activity, and how it represents habit number 6: Synergy.  The music began softly at first, and a few students and I pretended to be reading together on the stage.  As the tempo changed, we spring into action and the flashmob was on.  Here is a rather shaky video of our efforts!

At the conclusion of the assembly, we stayed on stage and danced as students were filing out into the hallway on their way back to class.  Parents and teachers were treating the class like the stars they were with photos and videos left and right.  Little did my stars know that they may miss the bus if they kept it up much longer!

As we made it back to our classroom, I sat they students down on the carpet.  There were a lot of things I wanted to say.  I wanted to tell them how happy I saw our flashmob target and it was great it was to see him smile after having dealt with the death of his father. I couldn’t get the words out.  I wanted to tell them that I’ve never seen such caring students as they helped each other gain the courage to learn these moves and to get on stage in front of 500 plus people.  I couldn’t get the words out.  I wanted to tell them I was going to miss our daily dance next year, but I just couldn’t.  My eyes were filling up with tears right in front of twenty-three exhausted faces and I couldn’t say anything except, “I’m REALLY proud of you guys.”  I think they got the message.

This year and class will hold a special place in my heart.  At the beginning of the year, we adopted the hashtag #inspirechange as our class motto and pledged to incorporate it into every genre we wrote in Writer’s Workshop. Little did I know that it went a whole lot further than that.  As a teacher, I have been inspired to put down the books every now and then and to sprinkle a little more fun into the day.  As a person, I’ve been inspired to try to put a smile on to as many faces as possible, as there are people who are truly suffering physically and emotionally, and don’t always show it.  This hashtag adorns the back of our flashmob shirts and it is my sincerest hope that if my students remember one thing I’ve taught them these two years, it’s to be kind to others.  That, my friends, is how I measure my success as a teacher.

Flashmob 2015 Mr. Udy's Class #inspirechange
Flashmob 2015
Mr. Udy’s Class

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