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Lights! Cameras! Action!

April 4, 2014

It was a small school and due to the many hats we wore, we high school teachers had an especially close camaraderie.  Even though each of us had been saddled with cleaning lunch tables, sweeping the hallways, policing the parking lot, directing the traffic, overseeing after-school detention and other maintenance duties besides our in-class instruction, I never remember hearing one teacher complain.  It was a cheerful group, and I enjoyed every day of their friendship.  We knew our calling from God, and we were content – it’s a great feeling.  I look back now and am amazed at the 65 to 70 hour weekly workload the whole staff carried (yes, twelve-hour days were commonplace for us) without hearing a whine.

1bbbWe were taking our lunch break in a small teacher’s break room, sitting elbow-to-elbow and chatting while sharing sandwiches, carrots and animal crackers.   Some teachers were reviewing the large calendar tacked on the wall, viewing the upcoming week’s assignments.  “Hey,” remarked Lisa, squinting at the next Thursday’s block.  “Error here.”

It was near the end of the year and the administration made a mistake on the calendar. There was to be an all-school assembly, but things fell through and although the day was clearly opened, they had no idea what to do.

A brainstorm hit the teacher’s break room.  Lisa, our English teacher, set her tea cup down with a sharp ‘bang.’ “Let’s have a teacher talent show,” she said, nodding and smiling firmly, “and keep it a surprise from the student body until the last minute.”

“With a week to prepare?” cried Alison.  “I have two classes’ worth of grading to do. Still, the idea is intriguing…”

“Well, not to get personal,” said Randy, the Spanish teacher, leafing through his ham sandwich to see if he had enough cheese slices on board, “but do any of us have any talent worth watching onstage?”

“Heathen, you cut me to the quick!” cried Phil, our Science teacher who was known for his flair for dramatics. “Many was the time I was the prime player in our youth group campsite skits.”  He sighed.  “How often I yearn for the footlights once again.” We cracked up.

I remembered my Boy Scout and college days of comedy routines and I became interested.  “I’m with you, Lisa.  We have enough talent on this teacher’s staff to pull it off. If nothing else, between the group of us, we know enough skits to fill up an hour.”

“I don’t know,” said Carl, shaking his head.  “The students see me as kind of stodgy.  I’m not sure I can pull it off.”

Debbie nodded.  “Yeah, we can do it!”

And so we decided to make it happen.

And keep it a secret.

With one week’s preparation.

The students piled into the chapel area and sat on the floor, unsure of what was to happen.  For reasons I cannot remember, the administration had removed all of the chairs.  No matter; it made for a more unusual atmosphere.

I was selected to be the emcee, complete with top hat and tuxedo tails.  The lights lowered and the stage spotlight illuminated me.  The students yelped in surprise.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,” I announced in my best circus routine.  “I bring you an hour of suspense.  I bring you sixty minutes of amazement.  I bring you a slice of comedy, a bit of awe, and a rip-roaring good time.”

I walked backwards toward the side curtain.  “I bring you – the Teacher Talent Show!”   The place erupted in cheers and applause as Lisa bounded onstage.  This ebullient but disciplined teacher had a talent that nobody knew: she had a killer balancing act.  As Lisa ran to the center stage, she called for Fred to throw her a cane, which she placed on her nose and walked the length of the platform. Then as the students cheered, she yelled for an umbrella, placed it on her chin and with arms stretched out for balance,  she circled the stage while the students applauded.  On and on she balanced items on her chin, right up to her finale.  Two of the male teachers carried out an aluminum ladder.  Yes, Lisa placed a twelve-foot aluminum ladder on her chin and marched around the stage like she owned the place.  The students went wild.

Debbie sprinted out next to the middle of the wooden stage and threw on a derby.  She then clicked, clattered and shocked everyone with the hitherto unknown talent of tap dancing.  Tapping her way across the stage, the students cheered for more and even dared a few of us other teachers to join her.  Fred and I took the challenge, and for the first and only time in my life, I danced in public – but true to my heritage, I lowered myself and squatted my way through a Russian folk dance.

Jack the Science teacher wore a lucha libro mask and took on the entire coaching staff one-by-one in an arm wrestling skit.  He was victorious all the way through until he met up with Timmy, a tiny eighth grader whom we had smuggled into the festivities.  As a conclusion to the skit, Timmy won a closely contested bout, with the victory culminating with a mob carrying the little boy offstage Super-Bowl style.  The crowd loved it.

On and on the talent went.  The music teacher Melissa sang a duet with her daughter.  Debbie performed a mimicry of the senior girls. Phil recited a poem. Randy and Carl concluded their skit by throwing buckets of candy out into the audience.

Steve and I ran out and performed a mock Shakespearean skit that ends in a vaudevillian mess, with us tackling and tumbling over each other.  The challenge of this was that we had to hold onto our microphones so that the audience could hear our witticisms.  In one violent scene I threw my elbow back and it hit Steve’s microphone. I heard a ‘crack’.

“Oof,” said Steve, and his head jerked quickly.  I wasn’t sure if he was playing or was really hurt, but we continued.  He pushed on with the skit, and finished with a comedic flourish that brought the house down.  As we bowed to the cheers he lowered the mike and whispered to me.  “You got me solid, Brad.”

“What do you mean?” I whispered back.

He grinned widely and I could see a clear, distinct crack on his front tooth.  I had broken his front tooth when I had shoved my elbow.

“Man, Steve, I’m so sorry,” I said as the cheering continued.  “Let’s get that thing fixed…”

“Later,” he said, still smiling.  “The kids are having too much fun.”

The coach’s family gave a barbershop quartet.  The art teacher sang a lullaby.  We were drawing to a close and I came to the front of the stage to thank the audience.  Fred cut me off, though and waved his arms.

“And now for the final act,” he said loudly.  “All of you head to the hill at the west end of the parking lot. Outside, through the side exit!  We’re having soap box derby races!”

The students roared and ran outside.  Unknown to any of our acting troupe, Carl and Fred had absconded with every one of the school’s dolly trucks and had lined them up on our sloping parking lot.  They had barricaded the bottom of the hill with haybales from a local farmer.

The students piled onto the dolly trucks and spun down the hill, crashing crazily into the straw.  It was a happy mess.

I looked over at Steve, who had grabbed a whistle and was now the racetrack referee.  He looked at me and winked, smiling widely.  I could see that cracked tooth.  I grinned back at him and looked around at all of the energetic teachers interacting with the students and I was reminded of the statement Paul made to the folks in Colossians:

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.
Man, I was seeing that very message played out in front of me, right here and right now.
None of these teachers were performing these slapstick routines to receive praise from the students and Heaven knows none of them were working at the school for the money.  They had chosen this profession/ministry for a very clear reason: they loved the students and wanted to help them along in their education, steeping it with the teaching and love of Christ.  It wasn’t contrived.  You could see it in their faces.
They loved to teach.  They also didn’t mind sweeping or mopping.
And they also didn’t mind making fools of themselves in front of the students if they knew that would brighten their day a little bit.
The love of Christ was shining all over this campus in bits and pieces

 “…it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing…”

 

 

 

 

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