Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Give Me a Head With Hair....or take it all away!

So, this is the part where I get to mention how awesome my 75 students are in my morning classes! That's right! I have some of the best students around. To all of you that are teachers, I am sorry that you had to miss out on having MY students! We have had an amazing year, so far, and the last 11 days have made it that much better!

It all started two weeks ago when one girl, in my period three class, put up her hand and said, "Mr. Young, you need a haircut." Now, some people might say, "yes, I do" and move on with the class. My brain doesn't seem to work that way. I turned to her and said, "Yes, I sure do! Who wants to cut my hair?" Well, of course, all of the students put their hands up. This lead me to ask, "who is going to pay the most to cut my hair?" Well, at that moment, the wallets and purses came out and they started putting up $5s and $10s. KA CHING!

Then, as most teachers brains think, how could we do this for the greater good? We had just had our fundraiser at school the Neo Natal centre at a provincial hospital. However, here were my students wanting to reach this goal. My suggestion was that we could do something to help our school out. Recently, there has been a committee created to fundraise for a new gym floor in our school (I am not part of this committee. However, I do use the gym all the time).

So, I stopped the class. I stopped teaching the content of my curriculum. I stopped the typical "learning" that my students are supposed to get. I stopped. I looked. I thought.

Now, if you know me, I sometimes like to jump into something without thinking. Sometimes things come out of my mouth before I think. "Who wants to shave my head?" I looked around the class and all of them got this weird glint in their eyes.

"Let's raise some money for the school" I said to my period 3 class. "What could we do?" Without missing a beat one student put up their hand and said, "GYM FLOOR!" All the other students were in favour of it. They all use the gym at some point in their educational careers so they thought it would be a great thing to help out with. It started off with everyone saying that we could get all 75 students in my morning classes (all grade 9s) to bring in a Toonie ($2 coin here in Canada). That would give them $150. All of them agreed, nope, that wasn't enough.

So, I did what any great teacher would do, I left the room. Before I left, however, I said to them, "YOU need to come up with something that works for you." I left for 8 minutes (stood outside the classroom door). What I overheard was kids talking and others going up to the door. When I walked in they came up with the plan:

$150 one hour in the gym for fun time
$400 Mr. Young shaves his chin goatee
$500 Mr. Young shaves his head
$1100 Mr. Young does everything above plus wears a dress to school for the day

Ok, they came up with a plan. I was happy about that. However, leave it to my teaching partner (friend that I have taught with for 6 years) to come into the class and say, "wear a dress or wax his legs?" WELL, as you can guess the students heads almost exploded and then it was the conversation of "Pain vs. Humiliation"? Well, PAIN won this round. HUH? What a minute! I did not sign up for waxing the legs. However, remember, I jump into things without thinking. So, of course, I said, "SURE!" I mean, really, how bad could it be?

So, the next day, I found that word had spread to my other two period classes and the game was officially on. However, nothing ever runs perfectly. One of my administrators had mentioned about how cool it would be to see if the students could raise $25 per student (which would get all of their names up on the honour wall of contributors, for the floor, that would go in the gymnasium). That would up the total to $1825. $1825? ARE YOU KIDDING? I am dealing with grade nines! So, I presented all of my classes the number. Yes, it was up significantly from $1100 but once the students found out that their names would be up on the wall, they got a hunger in their eyes that I had never seen in a class before. My thoughts were, "yeah, they like the idea right now. It is going to fizzle out! They are not going to make that amount!" Thankfully I have two wonderful Educational Assistants that are with me, in the mornings, that kept track of the money that was being brought in and they continued to give amazing encouragement to all of the students and keep them updated on the total amount being brought in!

Over the next few days I left them to their own devices. Students were brining in spare change, cash, cheques from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. Every class would be told the total throughout the morning. Everyone was encouraging each other. $2 coins were applauded the same if someone brought in $300 cheques. Everyone brought in what they could bring. Could it be the we had a group of teenagers were having fun raising money for something other than slurpees and video games?

Well the day came, 11 days after this all started. On that day they didn't just have $1875, they had $2200 on the nose. I cannot describe the amount of cheering that went up in all of the three classes when they found out they had made it.

It was then that all 75 of my students looked at me, smiled, and all started making jokes about waxing my legs, shaving my head, and getting rid of the scruff on my chin. There was NO way I could get out of this now. What had I agreed to? I could get on board with the chin, the head, but the waxing of the legs? Thankfully, I had lots of ladies that I work with come up and give me advice on how to reduce the pain of the waxing. Lots of them though just said, "make sure you have something to hold onto and grit your teeth!"

As you can see from the video below, I made good on my promise. We raised money for a good cause, and we had some fun with it! However, when I look back at this whole thing, I am starting to realize that my students learned something that wasn't in my curriculum guide. GASP! That is a big no no, isn't it? Everything I do should come from my curriculum guide! That is what I have always been told.

So what did my students learn from this?

1. They learned about working together to reach a goal
2. They learned that everyone contributes what they can and that any amount should be applauded and looked at as a small step towards their big goal
3. They learned how to cheer each other on.
4. They learned that adults don't have to do everything for them. They can make things happen for themselves as long as everyone is on board

Not from a curriculum guide, I know, but guess what? I DON'T CARE! To me, if they learned those four things from this experience, THEY have done their job!

Yes, I lost my goatee. I lost the hair on my head. I lost the hair on my legs and put up with the pain. So what? As long as my students can walk around with their heads held high knowing that THEY did something to make our school a better place, it was the least I could do.

Here is the video that was created by one of my Media Studies 20 students of the whole festivities that took place on the day I had my "$2200 haircut". The only thing you can't put on film is the pride and joy that is in their hearts. Yep, MY STUDENTS ROCK!!! I am a proud proud proud teacher!


  1. What a great story and lessons for you, your students and your school. That's what I call teaching and learning.

  2. Bravo! Your students will never be the same. It'll be interesting to see how this experience affects learning-- yours & theirs-- as well as your teaching over the course of the coming weeks.

  3. It's teachers like you that make some great memories for our students..and who KNOWS how many will become Teachers because you were part of their life? Way to go Brett, you are truly inspiring!!

  4. Bringing back the memories! I think many of us have got involved in some of these kinds of shenanigans. The funniest I ever "had to do" was find and rent a gorilla suit and go room to room with a cd player dancing to a disco song (Tsunami Relief). However the most money our school ever raised was for the 25th Terry Fox Run. That year the teachers who remembered seeing Terry on his run spoke of their experiences and reactions, including one who grew up way up north and was out on the highway waiting... the day Terry had to stop, and never got to see him. Another teacher related her personal triumph over this terrible disease, when she was in middle school. I so admired these teachers for sharing on such a personal level. It made the effort to raise money seem more real I think, in addition to the very valuable lessons you describe in your blog, working together to achieve a goal, and applauding all participation.

  5. Brett...absolutely awesome idea here! From one teacher to another, I whole-heartedly applaud you!