One Direction helps Junior High head in the Right Direction

One Direction,  if you haven’t heard of them by now, is the latest boy band mega- sensation, popular with tweens and teens. They earned their status by selling 15 million records worldwide last year.

Educators at Cary Junior High produced a video lip-synching the band’s song, What Makes You Beautiful to help motivate their students to see the beauty in others.

The video was the staff’s third production and part of year-long quarterly assemblies designed to promote character and recognize student successes.  Take a look!



The assemblies are a collaborative effort  between Cary Junior High's building leadership team and the school's PTO.  The gatherings have been part “pep rally” and part awards ceremony, with an incredibly enthusiastic response from the students.  Students often cheer, clap, or even scream when their teachers appear on screen.

"One Direction performer" and language arts teacher, Tom Kiefer, says the goal is “to change the school’s climate and make it more positive.  Each assembly and video production has a purpose and a message.”

"The first video, Call Me Maybe  by Carly Rae Jepsen was to welcome students to school and encourage them to make new friends," explained assistant principal, Eric Larson.  "The second,  Home  by Phillip Phillips was about making Cary Junior High feel more like "home." This latest video will hopefully cause students to reflect on how they treat people, and how they see people.  We're challenging students to look at others in a different way."   (Click here to see all the videos.)


Focusing On Character

In addition to the video debuts, each assembly recognizes students who have shown positive character traits with a certificate and prize.

Leadership team members used the school's mascot- the Dragon-  as the basis to design a “character counts” program personalized to the school.

DRAGON- is an acronym for the traits- Dedicated, Respectful, Achieving, Genuine, Open-Minded, and Noble.

Staff nominate several students throughout the quarter and then finalists are chosen.   Over 400 students have been nominated for outstanding character with 86 finalists so far this year. Student  finalists are surprised when their names are called during the program.

“Students who are kind, courteous, polite, respectful, genuine, open-minded,--all have a chance to be noticed for what they bring to the school,” says Larson.  "The students who win the DRAGON award get to stand on a stage in front of their peers and be recognized for being them. For some of those students, this may be the only time they get publicly honored."

Climate Change?

While Larson recognizes that student behavior problems are down and morale is up building-wide, it is “difficult to determine at this point if these assemblies, and the DRAGON recognition program are the direct cause. I'd like to believe that they are contributing factors.”

Comments and traffic on the school's Facebook page are a positive indication that what the staff is doing is working and appreciated.  Parents leave messages of praise for the staff's new way of trying to relate to the students.

Some of the posts are from parents of students that don't even attend the junior high yet.  "One of the positive unintended consequences of these videos and sharing them online with the community, is it helps parents and future students realize that while the junior high is different from elementary school, it really is a cool and fun place to be," stated Larson.

Teachers as Performers

Most all of the staff have appeared in a video.  Some selections lend themselves to a larger or smaller group of performers.

"Teachers have seen each other in a completely different light.  They are stepping out of their comfort zones and inspiring others as well,"  Larson explained.  "Within an hour of school being let out, I had one teacher saying he wanted to be in on the next video, and another group of teachers have already found a song they like."

"As for the future video, people are always trying to come up with ideas. We haven't chosen a theme or a song yet, but it is becoming more and more challenging to "one up" ourselves each time. Hopefully we can keep the momentum moving."

It would seem Cary Junior High is moving in the right direction.

 Read a previous post on social media in schools featuring Cary Junior High and view their "Call Me Maybe" performance.

To find out more about how character and motivation is critical to success, check out my post on Paul Tough's book How Children Succeed.

Teachers, have you or would you lip-synch or participate in a flash mob to motivate your students?  What kinds of things are your schools doing?  Parents what have you noticed about the climate of your child's school?  What else can we do to motivate students? 

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    Lisa Stiegman

    My name is Lisa Stiegman and I have been a Chicago area resident all my life. Besides being the mother of three children, I have been a writer, editor, and teacher.

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