Spiriting the Unexpected Spirit.

Two days until Christmas, (yesterday), so now one less,  unreal. I did some things right this year, I thought, as I thought as I drove to an obligation I was committed to, today, for my Junior class.  The day well actually started really bleah, 20 minutes late and no sign indicating we would be on location today, a tiny table with two seats, and it just felt like it was going to be not the productive day I hoped for. 

I improvised in making a nice display for our donation box to hold the different styles of wrapping paper to be offered, as well as a homemade sign stating who would be the group today offering wrapping as a service. 

The oddest thing happened though, despite setting up a yearbook displaying out school, and with the sign stating our school was giving the wrapping service today, people glanced over, some reading the sign, some not, and the look they gave was not disgust, but felt like it was due to so many looks that seemed to say, “You’re in the way, why are you here?”  Hard to explain, but that is exactly the feelings and looks sent over to me were feeling after about 2-3 hours the same thing, looks that were just downright make you feel bad.  There was the occasional browse through the yearbook of Woodbridge but with the obliviousness that we were there to gather donations as a measure of our success of being there at all – and of course the seconds, to minutes, to hours CRAWLED.

That fact in itself made me feel bad.  I did the only thing I could think of, I wanted to create a distraction.  I brought in the frame to construct book wreaths, and simply started making them right there.  I thought if I am going to be there / (here!) from open to close, I was going to work constructively.  Needless to say, the work progressed.  The most amazing thing occurred. Pages came out and began to turn themselves into book wreaths.

Individuals came over like moths to a flame.  I had more conversations about what I was doing, where I learned this from, had I seen this at Longwood Gardens, and over five more hours of conversations, looks that were not disdainful, intimidating, and more smiles than I had received the first half of the day.  Two and a half wreaths later, many many conversations later, and people in the store all knowing who I was, what I was doing there, and what I was doing, the realization dawned on me. The assessment I had been using as successful for the day, money, the only assessment I was providing, did not include assessments that interested others that would pull them in. 


How many times have me done this in and out of the classroom? 

I always provided myself as being an educator and not just a teacher, trying to tip into  into realms of the unknown and creative, and here I was educating people on what I was doing, without having to teach them how to do it – and it worked.  It worked so well, that we received $5.00 donation for an 11 hour day.  That is a little depressing when you look at the stats on that one, hours versus receipt, yet, what you can not measure is the number of people that actually interacted with us, associated Woodbridge High with something creative, social, and interactive, worth more than $500.00 for the day.

What powered to the front and center was the fact that meeting halfway, more than halfway to create assessments, create assessments, create a way to evaluate that is not often a preferred method, yet achieves another objective that is more powerful in a variety of other ways.  Take this story into consideration that the week before, our students were live and active among hundreds of individuals in the very same store and a HUGE success thanks to those online and those that came into the store that used our vouchers to contribute to our WHS school – a huge success. We are waiting on the exact numbers but even without exact numbers, we were congratulated by the one supervising manager that acknowledged that many schools just plop down papers and site there, and expect goodness to come to them.  I realized I did the same with the wreaths yesterday, and resorted to a way to better bring individuals to me for conversation and interest, a characteristic much more powerful than a monetary amount attributes success to.

The connections to education, to success in life, how you view when life serves you sour grapes and really not sour grapes as well but a serving much different than expected, but not a failure or a negative result at all.  What was humorous was as I was sometimes needing a break and walked around the store, I found the Librarian Media Specialist in me straightening items in disarray from the public, looking for lost and misplaced items and replacing them back in their order, and thinking I know the location of some of the items even more then the employees I feel at this point.  I am sure the clerks who might have seen this occur thing I am ADD and need to be there to fill out the need to put things back in an order.

Overall, I still have strides and plateaus to encounter and deal with in returning to the states following six years in another country.  That shocks me much, and I find myself wanting to discover my own meaning in corners of a country I was born into, and yet still finding difficulty having to find the meaning within me as I interpret so much around myself within my control as well as that not part of my control.  The similarities of myself with students and their needs to have an individual reach beyond the familiar ways to assess that are comfortable, and move to those methods that are often uncomfortable that make others comfortable STILL, after all these years is a learning process after all these years.  I am grateful for the students that buy into the alternative to create a successful path forward.  Realizations as this are perhaps the best gifts one can receive on a holiday, and having the opportunity to do so.


About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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