Middle school program ends on the highest of high notes
There was an entertaining assembly Friday at Ruidoso Middle School aimed at reminding students to respect each other and stand up against bullying. But Principal Anna Addis ended it with a much bigger message.
She took the microphone to thank her kids for celebrating how unique and special each of them is. And then, her eyes glistening and her voice catching, she told them she also wanted them to remember “how much we care for you, how much we love you.”
The room went very still for a second or two as the 475 students took in what Addis had said and how she had said it.
Then local comedian Jay McKittrick, the emcee for the event, broke the brief spell and wrapped things up. “Hey, hasn’t this been great,” he said. “You think we should do this again some time?”
“Yes,” hollered his audience with gusto as they stood up to be released back to their classrooms to pick up their stuff and head home for the long weekend.
The enthusiasm couldn’t be entirely explained by the program itself. Most of McKittrick’s jokes fell pretty flat, the sound system smudged the lyrics from the two live music acts, and the faculty anti-bullying skits were a little rough around the edges.
But the kids didn’t care. They were delighted to see their teachers horsing around on stage with their funny hats and handmade posters. They gave big ovations to the semi-audible musicians. And even though McKittrick couldn’t buy many laughs he got full attention and appreciative applause.
For an outsider, the best part of the show was the students themselves. They weren’t just orderly and well-behaved. They were lively, focused and respectful. When the noise level rose too high, they quieted themselves and each other. They smiled and joked with their teachers.
When the Jones and Miles Band swung into a tune with some rhythm, 8th grader Lavern James took a dare from a bunch of his friends and went to the back of the hall to see if he could get science teacher Andrea Colvin-Weaver to dance with him.
He could, and as she accompanied him to the open space in front of the stage, James’s friends erupted in mirth and high fives. Soon a few other couples were dancing too.
The middle school’s cavernous common area seemed so full of healthy high spirits that it was hard to see it as a place where bullying might be a serious problem, and in fact Assistant Principal Mike Speck said he doesn’t think it is.
“It’s a minor problem,” he said. “But it’s still important to focus on, because kids don’t always tell you when they’re being bullied.”
Speck said Addis and her staff had also organized the program as a way of thanking their students for compiling a very respectable behavioral track record this year.
Credit for that might well go to the intention behind Addis’s emotional declaration at the end of Friday’s show. There was no mistaking its heartfelt sincerity, but there’s also plenty of research to show that students who know that their teachers like them behave better and learn faster.
“Teaching is about relationships,” says Jason Messer, a highly respected California school superintendent. “Students need to know you care before they will care about what you know.”
“It isn’t about young people doing what they’re told because they want the adult to like them,” said Dr. Gale Macleod, a sociologist who co-authored a study on the topic. “They do what they’re told because they feel that the adult already does like them."