Each year room 202 has a defining moment.
It's the instant the kiddos change from a rag-tag group of individuals who happen to have the same teacher to a class. The Schmidties.
Some years they're united by a sense of accomplishment. Some years a tragedy forges a bond that can't be broken by graduation. Some groups are lucky; they ease into a sense of cohesiveness just because they have similar temperaments and motivations.
This year's moment happened today. And before it did, I'll admit – I was nervous. My kiddos this year are eclectic. They're quirky. They're individuals who are proud of that individual status. And all of these things are to be valued and respected… but they weren't engaging with each other. They were too busy noticing each other's differences and setting themselves apart. Too busy isolating within their niche or established friends.
They weren't rude to each other – they just didn't seem to have a use for or need to acknowledge their classmates.
This couldn't continue. I want a collective. I need a community. A grouping of isolates wasn't going to create the type of learning environment in which any of them would thrive.
I knew I'd have to get creative. And I did.
Today's class meeting centered on respecting others' differences. With little introduction other than, "Some of you may have seen this before. I want you to watch this video clip and notice how you react to the people's actions," I played the video of Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at MTV's Video Music Awards.
And I watched their faces as they became outraged – or crumpled. We watched the video a second time. This time we paused to discuss how Taylor felt at each stage.
1) Thrilled. Proud of herself for having accomplished her dream.
2) Excited that someone she respected had joined her on stage.
They had such insight into Taylor's response: noting her change in posture from tall and animated to slumped and curled in.
One pipsqueak piped up, "No matter what, that award's never going to be as special to her anymore. It's ruined."
Another said, "It's like watching a balloon get popped."
And they got my point. They shared times they'd been proud of an achievement and been disrespected
"I read this book that was really hard and someone said they read it in third grade."
"I got an A on a hard test and someone called me a nerd."
"My team won a tournament and someone teased me for not playing much."
"I just don't get why Kanye would be so rude," was a common sentiment – and I didn't have an answer for them.
"Why do we sometimes make fun of or keep away from others who are different from us?" I asked.
"I wish… I wish that Kanye had gone on stage and sang with Taylor Swift instead," said one idealistic kidlet.
And my final point was set up perfectly. "I know. How awesome would that have been? Even though they have such different music styles, can you imagine what they could accomplish together?"
As the class nodded their agreement, I played the remix below:
(Thank you, Makaio )
And they danced. Together. And encouraged each other's zany moves.
In the last 30 seconds before dismissal, I paused the music and told the group – acting as a group for the first time – "We have 28 different individuals in this room. We all have different talents. Can you imagine what we can accomplish if we're willing to work together?"
Cheesy? Perhaps. Unifying? Definitely.
As they drifted off to safety jobs or waited for their buses to be called, they didn't sit in their seats – they clumped up. Talking. Listening. Engaging.
Schmidties, I'm excited for Monday. It's going to be a good year.