May 29, 2010

Everyday Heroes

Our 8th grade vice president who I call "DeepBlue" (second from right) with her Heroes at CAA's 7th and 8th Grade First Annual Heroes Reception, May 13, 2010. It was kind of neat to meet these people who I'd read about and seen pictures of all school year. It was sort of like meeting celebrities when I finally met them in real life. Of course these amazing people have made a far bigger impact on this young woman's life than any celebrity ever will!

It all started with the 100 Days of School. In the days just before school began last August, our principal, Brenda told all the teachers to come up with something they could do to celebrate the 100th day of school. I'm not sure who first came up with the idea of celebrating the 100th day of school--a Google search only pulls up ideas for how to celebrate it but nothing about it's origins. But given that it tends to fall right in the middle of that particularly long third quarter of the year, right in the dead of winter, when there are few holidays, I imagine it was an imaginative teacher who decided to create a reason to celebrate. We'd observed the 100th day once in Saipan, at the urging of one our teachers, and I remember having a 100 meter race and other hundred-oriented activities.

After racking my brain for a bit I came upon the idea of 100 Heroes. Beginning on the first day of school, I and my students would introduce each other to our heroes--one hero each day. I presented the first four heroes on the first four days of school. The four--"Harry", Dr. John Carlos, J Carlos, and my mom, Rosalind Maycock-- were all gleaned from my own annual Heroes and Inspirations posts here on this blog as well as from my Most Influential People Series. After the fourth day, I turned it over to the kids. And so for next six months or so, each day before we went home, one of the students (or two if--as we often did-we'd missed a day or two) would get up and share a brief tribute to someone who had inspired them. The tribute and the hero's photo (or a picture of something that symbolized them) would be posted on the wall, adding to a hall of fame that snaked around the room as the year wore on.

The kids didn't receive a grade for this project so I suppose technically they didn't have to do it. Nonetheless, day after day they gamely got up to share their heroes. Granted sometimes the tributes had been dashed off at the last minute, and there were a few that were only a sentence long. But by and large the students put some real thought into their heroes and many of the tributes were quite moving. And who were these heroes? Of course there were the sports stars and celebrities--but far fewer than I would have expected. The vast majority of the heroes were parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, close friends, teachers, and church members who the kids knew personally. They were ordinary people, everyday heroes, who had made an extraordinary difference that would last a lifetime.

Our 8th grade president (in white) who I call "PoetSoul" with her heroes.Included in her diverse group of heroes were her parents, brother, former teachers, other relatives, church members, one of her best friends (who was away at academy, so her parents and younger sister came in her place), one celebrity-India Arie, and even her dog (who was unable to attend). Also included on her list was none other than her Savior, Jesus Christ. Though not visible, we believe He was there too.

We finally reached the 100th day, and sure enough, we had 100 heroes. A couple of the students shared one of their tributes at the school's little 100th day celebartion in the cafeteria and we moved the Heroes display out into the hall where the whole school could see them.

That might have been the end of it, but I had this crazy idea--that we should have a gala to celebrate these 100 heroes and invite the heroes to attend. I'd gotten the idea from Time magazine, which sponsors a Time 100 Gala to celebrate their annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. I'd seen the pictures in the pages of Time of the famous and influential hobnobbing together--each photo a who's who of the world's movers and shakers--and pictured a similar spectacular affair for our own everyday heroes.

Here's a video clip by TIME of, I believe, the 2009 Time 100 Gala (I've added a link since this embedded video doesn't appear to be working) . Watch this video to get a sense of what we hoped to accomplish with our own gala. I'd say we came pretty close, though we didn't do a red carpet (though maybe we'll add that next year!)

I'd mentioned the idea casually to the kids and they seemed interested, but I came to the conclusion that it was probably too late in the year to try pull something like that off, and that we'd be better off to wait until next year when we could plan it properly. I told the kids the only way I'd be willing to do it was if they took ownership. They would have to do the work, they would have to have the passion and the desire to see it through. I was not going to harass them into doing something that I didn't feel we could do properly in such a short time frame. Amazingly, the kids took on the challenge and rose to the occasion.

Oh, I still worked pretty hard, and I worried a lot. But the kids really did make the evening their own. They planned the program, picked the menu, designed the invitations, decided on a decorating scheme, a seating chart, and gift bags for the honorees. I like to say all I did was choose the font for the hero tributes (though in actuality I also retyped and reformatted all one hundred tributes as well--a herculean task in itself--and had them printed up at FedEx Office in nice glossy 11 by 17 posters). I'm really proud of the commitment and effort my 7th and 8th graders put in, and it all came together on Thursday evening, May 13, 2010 at the first annual CAA Hereo's Reception.

The gym decked out for the evening. You can see the posters of the heroes lining the walls. This photo was actually taken at the end of the evening right before they started taking everything down.

The program was simple but heartfelt. After allowing time for our honored guests to arrive and to look at the 100 posters of the heroes that adorned the Ephesus SDA Church gymansium walls, we began the program with a tribute to Jesus (who two of the students had selected as their heroes) and prayer, a welcome followed by a short slide show.

"Flashback" (so named because as my one Asian student he reminds me of my days in Saipan), looking quite snappy in his white tux and red bow tie, did the welcome.

Then through the rest of the evening--before, during, and after dinner, each of the students stood up to pay tribute to their heroes.

"Master", the big "tough guy" of my class shares his tribute to his family. For all his nonchalant attitude in the lead-up to the big night, his actual tribute was quite heartfelt.

The heroes who came were genuinely touched by the students sincere appreciation, and despite a few snafus here and there (the students painstakingly constructed playlist of music featuring tunes by Heroes Alicia Keys, India Arie, and Michael Jackson) never got played and there was some confusion regarding the seating assignments), the evening turned out wonderfully.

It's true that not all the heroes could make it. Some like the apostle Paul, Samson, and Queen Ester were long dead, others like "PoetSoul's" great-grandfather more recently so. Some, like Alicia Keys, Kobe Bryant, and an assortment of football stars, are used to accolades from untold millions and one more honor from a few middle school kids probably got lost amidst the mountains of fan mail they receive every day (though we went ahead and sent many of them invitations anyway). Some, like "QuietMan's" mom and dad and most of my heroes were too far away to attend. Some, like President Obama, were just busy that night. But at least a third of the hundred could--and did--come, and I think they were as blessed by being present as we were by their presence.

This seventh grader, who I call "Quiet Man" came with his brother and older sister. Neither of his parents, both of whom were heroes, could attend as they were both out of town that week.

I hope to make the Heroes Reception an annual event, and as word and appreciation for the event continues to spread, we will be able to make each year's gala more spectacular and special than the ones before. It will still be the kid's doing--but I think we'll be able to do more to make their dreams of an unforgettable night for their heroes a reality. Of course even with fine china, linen table cloths, and live music in a fancy ballroom, what matters most we already had this past May in that church gymanaisuim with our color coordianted paper plates, plastic table cloths, and recorded music--sincere love and appreciation expressed from the heart. That is what will always mean the most to our everyday heroes.

This is my one seventh grade girl on the left. I'll call her "Funny Girl" because she often makes me laugh. She's posing with her mom and sister, the two heroes on her list that were able to attend.

"Cool" in red and black, one my 8th grade students who always keeps her cool with her heroes.

"Master" with his heroes.

One of my seventh-graders, who I'll call "The Mover" (in red with black vest) with his heroes.

Here I am with the three heroes on my list that were able to attend--my wife, my mother, and my son.

Some of my heroes: My sister, Dawn, above. My Uncles Robert and Roland,
"Little Sister", Pastor Eliki Ravia, "Harry", and my mom, below.

There's "J" in the upper right corner. "PoetSoul's" dog, Bella is in the center.

Grandpa and Grandma

"PoetSoul", "DeepBlue", and "YoungMoney" hang out with the Feller at the end of the evening. The boy in the back is "DeepBlue's" brother and one of her Heroes.


Ken & Crystal Pierson said...

Great hero choices :) Love Elijah's eyes in the last pic!

Mai said...

That's really cool! I love that idea for the 100th day.... I might steal it! And that's awesome that your mom could be there!!

Vero in Saipan said...

Sean, you have so many amazing ideas! May G-d continue to bless your ministry with His little ones! :-)