#147: The Pep Rally

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Pep rallies can be fun, especially when you’re not directly involved in them and you’re able to sit on the sidelines and watch it all unfold. Participating in pep rallies is a different story; not because pep rallies are bad or that I don’t have school spirit, but because there’s a lot of anxiety associated with the brave unknown of standing in front of a gym with lots of kids running around or sitting in bleachers.

When I used to work at a different school, I made sure to participate in pep rallies as much as I could. I was a judge during the first one I went to, and I was given the responsibility of judging the school spirit of each class. The classes were separated into different bleacher sections, and they wore different colors depending on their class. Red, black, grey, blue. It reminded me of what the homecoming pep rallies were like when I went to high school, except not as many people cared about those and we didn’t have as many fun side events for teachers and students. A bit of a shame, but not the end of the world. I remember voting for the junior class because they brought a special needs student out to compete during the basketball mini-game, while the sophomore class shoved one out of the way and made sure to send their best players only. Sometimes you have to make the right choice for the right people.

At my new school, we still have pep rallies, but they’re under a different name and for a different purpose. Instead of building general school spirit, they’re meant to celebrate what students are learning and reward positive behavior. They’re so much more effective in creating interest in students than the previous pep rallies I’ve seen, because the kids do care about them.

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#140: The Speech

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Speechwriting is difficult. As I sit here, looking at the “Obama’s speech” handout next to me, I wonder what I can write about that’s connected in some way to speechwriting or giving a speech. Then, a lightbulb flickers in my head, and suddenly it all makes sense: I can write about the times I had to give speeches in school.

Being a public speaker as a part of my main profession was something that high school-aged Anthony would never imagine, let alone being an English teacher to begin with. I always thought of myself as a pretty miserable public speaker, all things considered, and I think back to my English class presentations back in 10th grade when I was too nervous to get in front of the class with my poster and talk about Nectar in a Sieve. Craziness that I ended up becoming a teacher after that.

I had to give speeches when I was a classroom teacher, pretty much constantly. Whenever I had a particularly unruly or disrespectful class, I made it my goal to admonish those who were disobedient and make sure they realized their misbehaviors. It wasn’t easy, though, and I definitely let some students slide more than I should have, looking back on things. Yelling at a bunch of teenagers about respect and obedience was not something I imagined myself doing when I was 14 years old, sitting in my counselor’s office as a freshman in high school.

One time, during period 6, I was so fed up by my Lit of the 60s class that I had them spend the next 30 minutes before lunch writing about what respect means to them and why it’s important to show respect to teachers. I made sure it was completely silent, and I used my loud voice. After lunch, I made connections back to the book we were reading, and only a few students got what I was trying to do there. I was in reality trying to draw comparisons between my outlandish, authoritative behavior and the behavior of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. At least they learned their lesson before the end of the year!