Homecoming, 5.0

I’m going to walk out on a metaphorical limb and make the assumption that any individual who has returned to the strange, wicked world of high school as a teacher has experienced feelings of deja vu and vertigo, of sorts. At times, I find myself in extreme flashback situations–moments that I cannot stop or control no matter how much I’d like to do so.

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Exhibit A: Homecoming week. This past week at school was a smorgasbord of quirky dress-up days, haywire attention spans, king and queen kiss speculations (because homecoming royalty has to kiss, duh), awkward tittering about who has just asked whom to the dance, and as a cherry on top: class and organization float decorating on Friday. As a class sponsor, I had the opportunity to supervise my group of rambunctious teens as they bickered their way through the decoration process. (Cue the personal high school flashback, now.)

Float decoration was a direct reflection of my own high school experiences with homecoming and other events that required class cooperation or participation: some kids worked diligently; some kids napped in corners; some kids disappeared to God knows where; and some kids sat around brooding, irritated that their plan wouldn’t be utilized. The end result of these experiences is always the same: When the project is finished, the collective unit gathers round to scrutinize, and those who have contributed nil start the barrage of negative criticism.

“This sucks. It looks terrible.”

“That line is crooked.”

“Who drew this? It’s awful!”

And so on, and so forth. Meanwhile, the handful of individuals who did contribute to the item in question begin to feel indignant, and backlash ensues. Typically, the terms lazyworthless, and jerk can be distinguished from the hasty emotional rebuttals of those injured few.

As a high school student, I was always part of the offended group; I worked tirelessly to ensure our class would “win” whatever competition my school had in place, and quickly became frustrated with classmates who only had negative comments to make. As a teacher, I now possess the “power” to shape this experience into a learning opportunity.

Here’s the lesson, kids: Life is like a homecoming float. You can either dive in headfirst, armed with glue and glitter and visions of Miley Cyrus on her wrecking ball; or you can sit on your haunches, suspicious or apathetic with no intentions other than being that wrecking ball, ready to take someone out with your negative words and “cool” attitude. The choice is entirely up to you.

However, be aware: The “you” that you choose to be in high school is not all that different from the “you” that you will be as an adult. Choose wisely, young grasshoppers. Choose wisely.

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