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how to organize 150 middle schoolers

Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?   I witnessed a miracle yesterday. 

Victory Dance

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. Parents prepared plates of pizza and drinks.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.” 
  6. They ate, they bowled, everyone cleaned up, and we all had a great time.  And most of the kids actually said,

“Thank you.”

I took away several life lessons from this little volunteer effort:

  1. Thou shalt be prepared and organized.  The two band directors thought through every detail in advance. 
  2. Thou shalt allow middle schoolers some limited choices (lane groups, pizza choice).
  3. Thou shalt keep middle schoolers occupied.  Why did they bowl AND eat?  Because when kids have down time, they create other forms of entertainment.  
  4. Thou shalt provide clear instruction in a respectful tone.   No need to bark, order or snarl at them.  Given respect, they will give respect.
  5. 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?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jaako

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1 Comment to how to organize 150 middle schoolers

  • I am constantly finding little (but important) lessons by observing others – your “5 Commandments” can be applied to adults as well as middle schoolers! Thanks for sharing these gems.

    Kent Simpson’s last blog post..Chances Are…

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