Sunday, September 23, 2012

Jumping over Campfires

Friday night I had the pleasure of chaperoning the 9th grade "Welcome Back to School Campout." This is an annual event to welcome both new old students alike and to hide the fact that summer really is ending in two days and students will be buried under a mountain of homework for the next 180 plus days. This student/teacher bonding experience was similar to many I've attended during my years of teaching except for two main differences: tent construction and campfires.

At the start of school on Thursday, one custodian starting putting up the tents. He worked throughout the day and late into the evening. By Friday morning when I arrived at school, all tents were neatly assembled in tidy rows and columns making it easier for me to count. Six times six equals thirty-six tents. Things were becoming clear to me.. Whereas we as teachers in my US schools taught the students to put up and take down their "own" tents thus killing 2 hours of student free time, we were actually going to have to plan many more activities than originally thought.

Luckily, each department (math, science, PE, English, art, music, etc.)was responsible for only 1 to 2 hours of activities during the night. Thank goodness for Orcas Island and it's plethora of "team-building activities" that could be modified to encourage problem solving and decision making in English.

Fortunately, the time between after school and the start of the evening campfire passed pretty much like I would have, volleyball, loud music, chips and soda, girls wearing their cutest non-uniform outfits in hopes the boys would notice and the boys still acting like they were middle school students and not even aware that girls even existed,  the PE teachers organizing games that gave us teachers the ability to evaluate who are potential  "problems" might be e.g. the athletes that cheat on the playing field are often worse in class...

Around 11:00 p.m. the group of 70 + students and 25 teachers moved to the parking lot where a large campfire was built. There were no s'mores but there were girls singing current pop music and boys adding fuel to the fire, literally and figuratively.  At one point a police car stopped by with his lights flashing to make sure we were "supposed" to be there. The flames were getting higher, the fire was getting bigger and the boys were huddling together making "plans." The principal gave her "don't you even think about it" look and I was wondering what they might be "thinking" about when all of a sudden the boys starting leaping across the fire. Apparently this fire-leaping is very common and they even have a holiday for camp fire jumping on May 6th. The flames were licking the boys butts and nipping at their baggy pant legs. Several boys slipped as they crossed the flames just catching themselves before falling backwards into the fire.

The principal marched over and put a stop to all the "foolishness" (I would call it a "lawsuit"  just waiting to happen in America), but not before the boys scored big points for bravery, finesse, bravado, and heroics from the girls..(I guess they noticed each other after all..) Did I mention that a male teacher was the first to jump the flames...?

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