Monday, March 16, 2015

The tragic ballooning accident.

This time next week, I'll be chaperoning ten students at the Arrow Leadership Conference.  I truly look forward to this annual pilgrimage, as the entire experience is one of those epic bonding workshops that allow for an almost secret-handshake-like team-building.   The number of kids that I think would benefit from the experience is roughly 25 times the number of students that are actually invited to attend.  

Four years ago, my team was functioning so well in their bonding experience, that the organizers called for the adults in the room to attempt to intervene, during an exercise to stress the importance of verbal communication.  The kids were in a carpeted ballroom, charged with keeping an ever-increasing number of balloons in the air.  They owned this challenge, and so the adults -- including me -- were told to walk around, get in their way, and basically try to force them to communicate with someone else in the room.

Honestly, the only thing that got in the way was, well, the rubber toe tips of my new sneakers, which caused me to stumble, and try to break my fall with my hands.  It was an interesting time, being 2 1/2 hours away from home, as the only chaperone of a group of students who required surgery within 36 hours of the now-famous "tragic ballooning accident" to repair my wrist.  

Oh, and my district's school board changed their policy on overnight field trips, now requiring TWO adults on every overnight trip.  It's a wonder that they don't require triple coverage for me.

Ready to fly again...

It may seem odd that I'd be excited about returning to the scene of that fiasco, but there are a number of strategies taught to these high school students that instantly become part of their vernacular.  One particularly poignant exercise involves a word association test that results in students identifying their strengths in a group as ROOTS, LEAVES, TRUNKS, or BRANCHES.   It isn't at all uncommon, for example, to have a student look at other students exhibiting a particular fascination with something, to shrug his shoulders and mutter, "What do you expect?  They're LEAVES!"  
The entire conference is focused on strengthening groups, and challenging those groups to go back to their own schools and implement a project, while demonstrating their new skills in the process.  Past groups have painted murals at a playground, raised funds for a soccer kickwall, and improved the recycling program in the cafeteria.  This year's challenge is much more specific -- to create a project that brings awareness to bullying.

Now I'm not saying there is NO bullying in our school, EVER.  But the groups working this morning to analyze the climate of our school, ready to go to the conference next week with data and examples, struggled to pinpoint a specific area of need.  Either this is a very good thing, or a very bad thing, depending on the actual facts.  Does bullying exist within our walls and is going unseen?  Or are we really that unusual that it isn't really an issue?

Stay tuned, and we'll see what these young minds come up with after considering trees and bouncing balloons.  

Of course, their first charge is assuring that I get home in one piece.