Go Texan Day 1
Home Up Go Texan Day 2

Teaching Line Dances to an Entire School Does Not Begin Well

On Friday, February 16, I drove my daughter to school. Then I reported to the gym to meet my first class at 8 am. No one showed up except the PE teacher, Ms. Gleaves, who told me there was a science fair at the school that day. As we shot basketball together for lack of anything else to do, she explained how the first class had been directed to go visit the science fair instead. Hmm.

The next period, a trickle of girls showed up at 9 am, but the majority had gone to the science fair instead. By 10:30 am, I had seen perhaps 15 girls in a student body of 600. This was an enormous waste of time. Ms. Gleaves suggested I try another day. 

I decided to leave and come back Monday… oops, Monday was a school holiday in honor of Martin Luther King. So I planned to come back Tuesday. I left with a frown. This enormous project had not begun as smoothly as I had hoped.

On Tuesday, February 20, things went better. Each hour new classes came in for me to work with. I was also able to finish teaching the PE Staff my dances and give them the music to use for their classes during the week. 

That day I learned what dances each Grade could and couldn’t do. For example I learned the Boot Scoot Boogie and the Tush Push were over the heads of most of the 8th Graders. We would have to leave these dances for the High School. Even more important, I realized the Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st grade girls were simply not old enough to grasp any of this dancing. If we were to realize Sister Dunn’s request of having the Families dance, these young girls would have to be guided through dances like the Cotton-Eyed Joe and the Beer Barrel Polka. No problem. I knew the High School girls would be able to help these girls using the buddy “system”.

I was disappointed to find out that the 5th grade was gone all day on a field trip. Oh well. Even more curious though was the miniscule trickle of Upper School girls. This had me worried since I had penciled in the Upper School as the “Stars of the Show”. Where were the others?

Asking questions, I discovered that if an Upper School girl is on a sports team, they are excused from PE. Since Duchesne is not a large school, every able-bodied girl is needed for the team sports. I was seeing less than 10% of the entire Upper School. Now I was really frowning. How was I going to teach these girls the line dances so they could do their solo act to start the show?  Even more worrisome, how was I going to teach these girls the Beer Barrel Polka, the San Antonio Stroll, the Cotton-Eyed Joe, and the Schottische well enough so they could lead the little girls on Friday?

I am Thrown a Big Curveball!

At the end of the school day, I went to Sister Dunn with the problem. I told her the event had the potential to be very successful, but I needed everyone in the boat to pull their oars in the same direction. Sister Dunn said she would meet with Dr. Flory, Head of the Upper School, and coordinate some time for me to meet with the Upper School girls tomorrow. 

Okay, Fine, I thought to myself. I will come back again on Wednesday. Now a teaching job that was supposed to take one day had expanded into three days. My paperwork for the studio was in total suspension. My unanswered emails were approaching 100. This was crazy! 

When I got home, I saw this email from Sister Dunn that cheered me up:

Thank you for all the time you have given to us.  No matter what, the line dancing will be fun.  The Upper School Head says that many of the girls know how to do this.  But, tomorrow at 12:50 there will be a group of Upper School girls in the gym that you can train to be the leaders. See you tomorrow at 12:50!

So on Wednesday, February 21, I showed up at 12:50 expecting to finally meet with my most important group, the Upper School. I was pleased to see an enthusiastic group of 50 girls, but I was also worried too. I asked one of the PE teachers, “Where are the other 150 Upper School girls?”  

I was told the rest were not coming, but I could work with the 10th grade since they had some free time.

So I had been given 1/4th of the Upper School to carry my program. I shook my head at this latest disappointment. But I decided to give it the college try. Okay, Fine. This is a good place to start. 

I enjoyed teaching the 10th Grade. These girls were very enthusiastic. Not everyone picked up the Boot Scoot Boogie, but most of them did. I could see we would have to drop the Tush Push. Nor did we have time to do the San Antonio Stroll either. So we moved on to the Beer Barrel Polka. Suddenly a group of 2nd Graders showed up in the gym. After I taught the 10th Grade how to do the BBP, I decided to test my theory. I told them to go get a 2nd grader and put them on the inside circle. I wanted to see if the Big Kids could indeed lead the Little Kids.

I got my answer instantly. It was amazing!!  I hadn’t realized just how nurturing the Upper School girls were towards the Lower School girls. Their “Big Sister” instincts kicked in and they loved getting the little girls as their partners!  The Big Kids and the Little Kids danced and played together so beautifully. Smiles and laughter were abundant!  

We practiced a couple times and the big girls led the little girls like a charm. It was so cute!  I put the music on and everyone just laughed and clapped to the music. I can’t begin to describe the smile that crossed my face. This was the first time I realized just how successful this event could be if organized properly.

Although I was thrilled at how well the older girls and the younger girls related, I still needed the rest of the Upper School to make this work!!  I was really feeling anxious. Here I was counting on some kids I had never met in my life!  Sick to my stomach, I expressed my worries to a sympathetic PE Staff. Finally one of them said I needed to tell these things to the Head of the Upper School. She took me by the hand and walked me to Dr. Flory’s office.

Dr. Flory was very gracious. She was willing to meet with me quickly despite my “drop-in” status. I explained what I was trying do. After listening to me carefully, Dr. Flory explained how complicated the schedules were for the Upper School girls. The only conceivable time I could meet with them on Thursday would be during lunch hour. The idea was to give the girls half an hour to eat, then come to dance class for half an hour. Dr. Flory said there was one problem. She carefully explained that this time belonged to the girls. They could not be “ordered” to attend my half-hour workshop, but they would be strongly encouraged to attend. I said I was willing to abide by this. I left with a big smile on my face. Now I had a fighting chance to make this work!!

However, it was not to be. My smile soon returned to the frown position. Just one hour after I got home, I received this email from Dr. Flory: 

Thank you for your kind words, Mr. Archer.  The sophomores had a wonderful time dancing today.  I do have some bad news about our lunch plans—and this is typical.  My  Dean of Students reminded me that we had already scheduled a First Thursday for lunch tomorrow; the girls grab lunch and then perform for each other, usually in the atrium. Apart from this conflict, we have a Bingo event after school in the Gym tomorrow and I would guess that the maintenance crew will be setting up by lunchtime.

I am sorry about this—perhaps some girls could come to the gym during lunch on Friday, right before the dance, to practice and get in the spirit.  I have no doubt the girls will have a great time on Friday.  You’re very good to do this for us.  Best Wishes.  Mrs. Flory

This message took the wind out of my sails. I felt crushed. Thursday had been my last chance and now the carpet was pulled from under my feet for the fourth day in a row. This was ridiculous.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I just lay there wondering if we should cancel the event or not. I did not see how it could work. I had developed all my plans around the leadership of the Upper School girls and there was no way I could use them. What was I supposed to do?

I just wanted to quit. I had showed up faithfully every day for four days in a row only to be disappointed at every turn. How was I going to make this work and avoid a fiasco?

Quite honestly, if it weren’t for the PE Department, I really would have quit. They were so patient and so helpful!  Each day that week they worked with the Middle School girls and the Lower School girls to review the material I had taught them. The kids 3rd Grade through 8th were definitely getting the hang of the different dances. This was encouraging. I decided these ladies had worked just as hard as I had to try to make this event a success, so I wasn’t going to quit on them. I decided to show up during High School Lunch Hour on Thursday anyway. Even if I didn’t have any HS girls to teach, I still needed to sit down with the PE Department and brainstorm for alternative plans. 

Although it hurt to give up, I had to accept that my original idea to depend on the leadership of the Upper School would be useless. I knew I had to scrap the original plan. But now what would I do? I didn't have a backup plan.

Thursday afternoon, February 22, I drove over to Duchesne for the fifth day in a row. Originally the training was only supposed to take one day, but I was beginning to feel like I actually worked here. 

As I walked up the gym during the Upper School lunch hour, I saw something that made my blood boil. There on the lawn were over 100 Upper School girls. As they were finishing up their lunch, the whole group was just laying there on the grass, basking in the sun, goofing off and talking to each other. They didn’t look very busy to me. Where was this big performance in the Atrium??

I just shook my head in disgust and kept walking. I went to the gym. There was a class in session for the 3rd Grade. The Third Graders were going over the dances they had learned for their own Lower School “Go Texan Day” scheduled for the same day as my event, but two hours earlier. They were doing a simple line dance called the “Hully Gully”.

As I watched, something interesting happened. When the music came on, a couple of High School girls who were walking past the gym heard the music and poked their noses in the door. When they saw the younger girls dancing, they came in and started to dance too. I asked where the HS girls had learned this dance. The teacher said they remembered it from their Middle School years. In other words, a lot of the Duchesne “in-school” dances still lingered in the back of their minds from earlier years. This gave me an idea. 

Twenty minutes later I sat down for a meeting with the three ladies from the PE Department who had helped the most: Ms. Gleaves, Ms. Manz, and Ms. Everett. I quizzed them carefully about the HS girls who had just dropped in to dance on the spot. It took a while, but I learned some important facts.

I now realized that the Middle School girls practiced many of these “in-house” dances on a regular basis during PE.  Ms. Manz and Ms. Gleaves pointed out that the Middle School girls loved to dance and had tremendous enthusiasm. The Middle School was the most “dance conscious” group in the entire school. Hmm.

So here were the facts: The Lower School had their own separate dance program on Friday at noon. The Middle School did not have its own dance program that day. However the Middle School still remembered the same dances as the Lower School and had been reviewing them during their daily PE. The Upper School didn’t know much of anything. Hmm.

A new plan formed in my mind. It was a gamble, but it had some solid reasoning behind it. I would put the Lower School in the bleachers and put the Middle School and the Upper School out on the gym floor at the same time. Then I would turn on the music to the dances the Middle School knew. Then perhaps the High School girls would follow the lead of the younger group and try to participate as well…

In other words, the new plan was to bypass the Upper School and pin our hopes on the Middle School instead. I crossed my fingers.

I still had many problems. The ancient powerful amplifier the school owned would not connect to the CD player. No one had ever thought to get an adapter. Nor had anyone ever used the microphone and the music before at the same time. We got these solved. 

Next I asked how were the “Families” supposed to find each other in the mob?  The solution was to find large signs numbered 1– 38 and have the leaders hold the signs and line the edge of the gym floor in numerical order. This worked well.

Next I asked how was I to be seen?  We located the volleyball coach’s stand, which made me eight feet taller. Things were starting to take shape.

Then I went home and made a completely new CD for tomorrow’s event. From my original plan, I had dropped the Boot Scoot Boogie. I had dropped the Tush Push. I had dropped the San Antonio Stroll. I had dropped the Schottische. In their places I substituted the Duchesne PE Department house dances known Hully Gully, the Achy Breaky Heart, and an aerobic Cotton-Eyed Joe line dance routine the girls were especially fond of. 

At this point I was willing to make any compromise possible to get this event off the ground. But would my gamble work?? 

Click here to read about the surprising events of the "Big Day"!

The Duchesne All-School Go Texan Day Story
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