how to organize 150 middle schoolers
Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? I witnessed a miracle yesterday.
My 7th grader’s band program toured three local elementary schools yesterday: an all day affair of orchestrated walking, music making, bus riding, and–sandwiched in the middle–a little pizza and bowling. I was assigned “lunch coordinator” of the one hour pizza AND bowling break between concerts.
That’s right: one hour for pizza and bowling between concerts.
How in the world will they manage this? I wondered.
Ingeniously, I discovered, with a balance of organization, autonomy, and direction. Here’s how they did it:
- Kids signed up for “lane groups” prior to the event on a big white sheet of paper. That sheet was posted at the front door.
- Parents prepared plates of pizza and drinks.
- As the buses unloaded, the band director (Mr. S) announced on the intercom: “Find your lane. Enter your name in the bowling system.” Magically, the kids complied, still socializing and goofing around the way tweens/teens do.
- Then Mr. S instructed: “Lanes 1-2, get food. Lanes 10-11, get shoes. . . ” alternating through all 35 lanes while parents took tickets (to discourage frequent flyers) and handed out pizza.
- After everyone had been through the lines, Mr. S said, “The lanes are about to open. You may bowl when you are ready. Seconds of pizza are available.”
- They ate, they bowled, everyone cleaned up, and we all had a great time. And most of the kids actually said,
I took away several life lessons from this little volunteer effort:
- Thou shalt be prepared and organized. The two band directors thought through every detail in advance.
- Thou shalt allow middle schoolers some limited choices (lane groups, pizza choice).
- Thou shalt keep middle schoolers occupied. Why did they bowl AND eat? Because when kids have down time, they create other forms of entertainment.
- Thou shalt provide clear instruction in a respectful tone. No need to bark, order or snarl at them. Given respect, they will give respect.
- Working with middle schoolers can be a pleasure.
Serendipity at the the bowling alley. Who knew?
Once again, I offer up thanks for those who work the magic in middle school.
What lessons have you learned in unexpected places?