The hands shot up one by one. They popped up like dandelions sprouting in my backyard. Glancing over the first kid’s shoulder, I saw that computer error message that every teacher has come to dread this time of year. This was the THIRD TIME the computers had crashed during assessments. Not once. Not twice. THRICE! The kids were freaking out. Every face turned my way. They were eager to find out exactly how to react to this situation. Let’s be honest here. Students model their behavior after seeing how teachers react. Panic was beginning to set in. Frustration. Anger. And this was my 6th hour! My most chatty class of all of them. The chaos was beginning to swirl, and yet they still looked to me. Their faces said it all. Mr. D., how should I react?
I chose not to panic. If I panic, they panic, and quite frankly the thought of my 6th hour in full panic mode makes me cringe. I shut out their voices and listened to another voice. The voice I focused on came from Galatians 5: 22-23 and told me, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” I took a deep breath, and let it out.
“Ohana!” my voice boomed through the room.
“Family!” they called back, knowing they had to get quiet.
(Classroom management accountability check-in: how do you get your students to quiet down? If you don’t have a quiet signal, well, you’re out of luck for this year, but hey, you have two months over the summer to find one!)
“Alright, I want everyone to take a deep breath with me,” I said, sucking in as dramatically as I could muster. They followed.
“Let it out,” I called. The room sounded like a bunch of deflating balloons, but it worked. The chaos was lessened.
The phone rang immediately, and the news from the other end wasn’t what anyone wanted to hear. The KITE system was down. AGAIN. Testing would resume tomorrow. IF they got it fixed. I looked up at the clock on the wall. Ten minutes of class time left. They were done. Cooked. Trying to pull in a lesson at that moment would have set off a rebellion. Anarchy!
I had to think quickly. I was losing them. A few of them were already on full rebellion mode, attempting to dab in the back of the room. If you don’t know what dabbing is, it is the latest dance move. All the kids are doing it. It is quite ridiculous actually. You bring your arm up to your face, almost like you’re covering a sneeze, dip your head, and pop back into place.
The angry me wanted to tell the kids to knock it off, but there was this thought I pondered. What if good old Mr. D. tried to dab?
“What the heck are you doing?” I chided them in a teasing voice.
“DABBING!” the entire class called back in unison.
I knew this was risky, but I threw it out. “Alright, alright. So, I am not up on the latest dance craze. Will you guys teach me how to dab?”
You would have thought I had just ignited a fire under their rear ends. If there was one class to teach me to dab, it was 6th hour. They think they’re “gangsta” yet they don’t really embrace the reality that they live in Johnson County. The two dabbers were in full instruction mode now, doing a choreographed dab in the back of the room. How they choreographed it, I have no clue.
“Now you try it, Mr. D.!” one kid called out.
Now if you don’t know me, my dancing ability rivals that of a stiff. Translation: I suck. My wife and I practiced our first dance for our wedding for six months, and I still looked like the walking dead out there. But you know what? I didn’t care one bit. When you’re called to dab, you dab! And this dance move wasn’t all that hard. So with all the bravado and gusto I could muster, I dabbed. Right there in front of the entire classroom.
I probably scared them. It wasn’t all that great. But I tried, and that was all that mattered. And do you know what? I somehow gained respect that day. Putting yourself on the kids’ level to have them teach you something new and fun is bit humbling, but they loved every minute of it. The wisest man of his time, Solomon, said it best when he admits, “So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 8: 15).
Moral of the story? Have fun with your students. Loosen up. Dab a little! Your kids will love you for it, and it promotes a camaraderie and closeness in the classroom that God would be proud of. Something happened that day that I dabbed. (Besides me making a fool of myself.) If you can’t beat em, join em. Have fun with your students over the last month. After all, God loves it when a smile transcends a moment when anger or frustration could have won over.
(If you let down your guard every once in a while, magic happens in the classroom. I don’t want to miss any of those moments. With my students. With my boys. With my wife. With friends. When you listen to the lyrics of the Afters “Every Good Thing” it is an incredible reminder to not take those moments for granted. Listen to the song below.)