Teaching Line Dances to an Entire School Does Not
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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.
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.
sophomores had a wonderful time dancing today.
I do have some bad news about our lunch plans—and this is
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.
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
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
At this point I was willing to make any compromise possible to get this
event off the ground. But would my gamble work??
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