Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cha Cha Cha Butchee-- Having fun and being yourself

    Last Friday I was asked to recreate the famous SNL Spartan Cheerleader Routine (see below) for our school rally. I jumped at the opportunity and a parent coordinated a routine and made me a sweater. To open the rally, I sprinted out to the center of the gym and broke into an awkward dance as the students erupted in laughter and noise. There is nothing overtly educational about this but I had fun and so did the school. Regardless of how trivial this may seem, events like this are essential for building school community and relevance with students. It also shows students that the school community matters to you and you are willing to put yourself out there for their enjoyment. I would hope to think this also expresses a deep care for the students and the school. It is often the case that teachers seem like robots to students. Students sometimes do not see teachers as the regular human beings they are. Simple things like this help students relate to you as someone who is willing to have a laugh.  I also believe that opportunities like this help build relationship with students. These relationships are absolutely crucial to developing trust and respect with students. You also are modeling a certain type of risk-taking that you may want students to exhibit themselves in the learning process. It may make it easier to prod a student to  open up for a presentation if you remind them of you being dressed up as a cheerleader.

Move over glee

       And yet this is something I probably would not have done just a few years ago. Teaching in inner city Los Angeles fresh out of college, I was instructed not to smile until Thanksgiving. I was told that within each class there is a power struggle where the teacher must assert themselves and demand respect by being strict, tough, and ruthless. This was not my principal but rather a grad school instructor. Based on these instructions, dressing up like a cheerleader and embarrassing oneself in front of your students would be a death sentence. As I clung to this advice, I had students who would sit quietly and obey orders, but I did not have students who were willing to buy into me as a teacher. Later that year, I coached the 8th grade basketball team and I started to develop bonds with students. I came to realize that it is these bonds that help drive relationships and respect in the classroom. In my brief experience as an educator, I have come to the conclusion that students are much more likely to respect you if they know you. Any respect that you need is build upon a mutual relationship and it is very hard to nurture a relationship without a smile. So why not go out and embarass yourself. My students may not ever remember my "lesson of the year", but they will remember the time Mr. M did the Spartan Cheerleader.

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