The Duchesne "All-School" Go Texan Day
So finally the "Big Day"
arrived. On Friday, February 23, I
went and bought a Stetson hat for the occasion. I figured it would
make it easier to spot me. With my black hat and black vest on, I
thought I looked like JR Ewing. But would I have his luck or would
someone shoot me? It
seemed a tossup at the time.
My first event was to watch the
Lower School Go Texan Day program. Every year Ms. Everett along
with some help from Ms. Gleaves puts on a dance event which
involves girls from Pre-K all the way through 4th Grade.
Indeed it is these dances which I
have chosen in place of my own to hopefully save the All-School
event later in the day. I got to the gym at noon in time to
see my lovely daughter Sam dance in her final year of the Lower School program. As
always we waved to each other. I beamed with pride as she
performed. This is one of the many reasons I love this school.
Duchesne gives me chances like this dance to love my daughter and
appreciate how hard she tries to please me. ;-)
After the performance I gave Sam a
big hug and she returned to her class for an hour. Now the hard-working
PE Staff and I did some last minute preparations. As I have said
earlier, without their advice and moral support, I would have
thrown in the towel. They worked just as hard as I did to give
this event its best chance of success. And now as D-Day
approached, these ladies appeared to be just
as curious as I was to see if this was going to work.
As the students strolled in at 2
pm I was surprised to notice how calm I felt. I honestly thought
my new plan would work, but I also knew the possibility of a
complete fiasco existed too. My attitude was that I had done the
best I could and if it didn’t work, I was still going to be a
good sport about it.
The Dance Begins
After a couple
of announcements, I climbed up the volleyball stand and
asked the Middle School and the Upper School to leave the
bleachers. Quickly 400 girls lined the floor. It was quite a
I noted with satisfaction that
there was room for everyone in the school to be out on the gym
floor at the same time. I said a silent “thank you” to the
Great Dance Teacher in the Sky.
I told the girls a corny joke, then
announced the first dance. Without giving them time to discuss it,
I turned on the music to the "Fast Cotton Eyed Joe"
line dance. The Middle School didn’t need any encouragement.
Their Stimulus = Response reflex kicked in the moment they heard
They instantly launched into joyful
Pleased that the Middle
School had indeed reacted as expected, I carefully watched
the reactions of the Upper School girls. A few of them
remembered this dance and joined in without hesitation. But
3/4ths of the group just stood there watching. Three things
were surely going through each of their minds.
- Can I do this dance?
- Is this just way too “un-cool”
for me to participate in?
- Should I stay or should I
The "Fast Cotton Eyed
Joe" wasn’t a hard dance to figure out, but would they
My heart skipped a beat and I crossed my fingers.
Over 150 HS girls were still just standing there doing
nothing but watch the 200 Middle School girls and about 50 of
their fellow Upper School girls dance. Then about 30 left the
floor and went back to the bleachers. Uh Oh. The remaining 120
alternated their eyes from the dancers to the bleachers to the
dancers to the bleachers. The success of the event hung in the
My catastrophic fear was a large
number of the Upper School girls would instantly make a beeline
for the bleachers and just sit down. Then the Herd Instinct could
kick in. The other girls who weren’t sure what to do would take
the easy way out and join them, creating a buffalo stampede of
I breathed a huge sigh of relief as
my prayers were answered. The High School girls decided to stay
and give it a try. About 20 seconds into the song the “undecided”
girls started to dance. Many of them got behind a
Middle School girl and tried to copy their moves. The Upper
School had decided to join the Big Dance. Whew!!
The most dangerous moment had
passed. The enthusiasm of the Middle School girls carried the day
as we hoped it would. They inspired their older, more “cool”
conscious Upper School classmates to join the fun.
The All-School Dance had begun!!
We Almost Have A Disaster!!
Things were not perfect. On the
Line Dances, not everyone went the same direction. Some groups
went West while on the other side of the floor groups went East.
The good news is they were dancing. I was willing to sacrifice my
sense of dance purity for my gratitude that they were Dancing.
Besides, consistency is hobgoblin of simple minds. Who cares if
they all go the different directions?
The five line dances went well. The
Lower School girls like my daughter’s 4th Grade plus
the 2nd and 3rd Graders were just itching
to join in as they watched from the sidelines, so eventually the
teachers gave them permission to join the pack too. Critical Mass
had been attained!! The gym was a veritable sea of energy!
However we weren’t out of the
woods yet. After the five line dances it was time for the group
dances. It was obvious to me there was no way we were going to
reform into 38 neat Families. The 600 girls were completely mixed
together. They couldn’t have even seen the "Family"
signs if they wanted to.
I decided on the spot to ad lib.
Our best chance for success was to have the whole school do the
“Cotton-Eyed Joe” at once. So, using the microphone, I
encouraged the teachers to help the girls form Cotton-Eyed Joe
lines. Unfortunately the classic C-E J concept of the “Spokes on
the Wagon Wheel” was lost on the girls. It took the teachers
quite a while to form up the lines. From my high vantage point I
was able to call out to teachers I knew by name to handle a
The teachers were a blessing!! They
really pitched in to help make this dance a success.
Finally it looked worth a try. I
turned on the music. OH NO!!
The far end of the floor was moving
Clockwise while two-thirds of the floor was moving
Counter-Clockwise. The Right Way Group and the Wrong Way Group
looked like Roman Phalanxes from the movie “Spartacus” moving
towards each other to engage in battle!! Visions of battle scenes from the “Gladiator” and “Braveheart”
flashed before my eyes. It was time to do something STAT!
I did a smart thing – I turned
off the music seconds before the soldiers met!!
I mean, the lines were actually headed right at each other
and no one appeared willing to stop. Good grief!
With the music off, I realized I am
the only person in the room with a view good enough to see what
went wrong. I am the Sky Patrol Traffic Director! Using the
microphone, I asked some teachers to move into the troubled area
to turn the girls around. Thank goodness no one was hurt!
Okay, time for Take Two. On goes
the music again. This time everyone is going in the right
direction, but….OH NO!
The right side of the room doesn’t
know how to turn the corner. Instead they are marching straight
into the bleachers. What is worse, the girls from behind are about
to smash the girls in front right over the edge of the front
bleacher. There is a huge chance someone is about to get hurt. I
am the only person in the gym who can see this disaster developing
and actually do something about it. Again I turn off the music. I
holler, “Stop! Stop!”
The first line of girls barely
avoided getting pushed over the edge of the bleacher. The teachers
nearest the problem quickly moved in to re-organize the girls.
They realigned the lines into more of a “Circle” than the “Square
Box” we had before.
Since no one has gotten hurt,
I just had to laugh. What a hoot!
Here we are constantly lurching on the brink of disaster,
but at the same time everyone is having a great time!
There are clearly some guardian angels keeping an eye on us.
Okay, time for Take Three. The
Third Time is definitely a charm. We now have 700 women out on the
floor Hook-Kicking away to the beat of the music.
As I watched the giant Wagon
Wheel circle the floor, a grin crossed my face as I spotted
a celebrity. Sister Dunn decided to join the Cotton-Eyed Joe
too. What a brave lady!!
It was all quite a sight to
The Beer Barrel Polka
I looked at my watch. We actually
had time to try the Beer Barrel Polka. I asked the girls form two
enormous concentric circles around the gym. The Big Kids were on
the outside facing in at the Little Kids who are the inside circle
facing out. It looked good.
Then we formed two smaller
concentric circles inside the first two circles. From there,
the remaining girls formed a dozen other Circles of their own
which are much smaller and more intimate. There was no space
left on the floor!!
But like the mighty Loop 610, if everyone
kept moving in
the right direction, this should work.
I had everyone practice for
a while to my voice. The Middle and Lower School all knew
this dance and they were teaching the Upper School. Everyone
was laughing so hard!!
Sometimes the High School girls
down on their knees to clap-clap-clap little Pre-K girls.
Other Kindergarten girls don’t know how to “chassez”,
so the Big Kids picked them up and carried them!!
The little girls scream with glee!
I was so happy I had tears in
my eyes. It is obvious these girls really love each other!!
is no doubt in my mind that this place has a big heart and
school spirit in wonderful abundance! I suppose the
teachers see it on a regular basis, but it was especially
touching for me to see this as a "parent"!
Now it was time for my practical
joke. Instead of the goofy Hornpipe fiddle music we usually dance
the BBP to, I added my favorite prelude where the Las Vegas guy
“Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Main Event. Let’s
Get Ready to Rumblllllle!!”
Then came some flashy disco-style introduction music
followed by “Are you Ready for This??”
The girls are all wide-eyed and worried. Even the teachers
were knotting their eyebrows and staring at me. What on earth is
Finally after the flashy 20-second
intro, the goofy fiddle music came on and the girls realized I
have played a trick on them. They laughed, and then exploded into the
Beer Barrel Polka. For 8 minutes 650 girls danced together in pure
joy. It was an amazing display of spontaneous shared energy.
As I watched from the volleyball
tower, I beamed with happiness. From my high vantage point, I
was treated to a beautiful panorama of these girls having the time
of their lives. Many teachers were dancing too!
This was way too much fun!!
Except suddenly in the center I
noticed 20 girls just standing there with their arms crossed. They
are completely motionless and oblivious to the hurricane winds
around them. They aren’t moving at all while 650 girls spin and
whirl around them at break-neck speed. From my viewpoint, this
point of inertia looks exactly like the Eye of a Hurricane!!
After the dance was over, I asked a
teacher about the motionless group that formed the Eye of the
Hurricane. I was informed they were “Seniors”, said to be the
least cooperative life form to ever grace the planet. I had to
laugh. I recalled that I too had the worst attitude ever during my
final three months of high school. ;-)
But I didn’t let it worry
me. Instead I basked in the energy of the girls who did
participate. They had a ball. The All-School Dance could not
have turned out better. Thanks to our guardian angels, no
one got hurt. The girls loved the dancing and the teachers
were grinning too. Everybody had a huge smile on their
This had been quite an event.
Everyone had more fun than anyone could have ever imagined!
Thank goodness the gym was well
built! The collective school spirit of Duchesne Academy was so
high I am surprised the gym didn’t just lift off like a giant
air balloon!! I am
sure there were definite seismic readings plus waves in the nearby
Buffalo Bayou as the entire school rocked the neighborhood!
As I look back, despite all my
personal disappointments and extra visits, I am glad I hung in
there. I saw so much happiness that day that I often felt my eyes
swell with tears of joy. It was very touching to see these girls
enjoy themselves so much.
I would also like to acknowledge
that one noble man (a brave teacher from the Upper School) who got
out there and danced in the crowd. I felt a strong kinship with
him although we never met or exchanged glances. It was nice to see
at least one other man in this giant sea of Sisterhood.
After the dance was over, I
received many warm compliments for a job well-done. Although I do
not remember the teacher who said it, one lady shook my hand and
described the event as "Organized Chaos." I
thought that summed it up pretty well. Several others teachers
thanked me as they shook the heads in amazement. The comment I
heard the most often was, "I don't know how you did
it." Well, guess what, I'm not sure how I did it
I was left with the strong
impression that Duchesne clearly at times has trouble telling the
left hand what the right hand is doing. Yet at the same time, this
school has the amazing ability to pull through and turn a
potential fiasco into a gigantic success.
I concluded that the basic
spirit of the school is to pull together at practically
every level. No one told the High School girls what to do,
but their instincts were to cooperate. No one told the PE
Department what to do, but they worked for an entire week
helping me train the kids anyway. No one told the faculty
exactly what to expect, but at every possible juncture I saw
a teacher step in and solve a problem without even being
told. Duchesne isn't perfect, but it also a joy to
What a day!
What a week! And
to think I even survived to write about it…