Sometimes ideas come to me and I don’t know exactly how they will manifest, but they often find a way into my reality in some form or another. As a teacher of teens at a continuation high school, I am challenged to find ways to reach young minds and motivate them to learn. I believe that life experiences teach more than pencil and paper so I try to squeeze in as many field trips as we can afford throughout the year. Other than field trips, this idea has been brewing: create some sort of business that the students can run from the school, like a bakery or producing some sort of craft that can be sold in local stores. They could get hands-on experience marketing, helping customers, dealing with money, making products, etc. I’ve been thinking about this for a few years, but I haven’t been able to make anything happen with it until this last year when someone asked, “Do you think we could have a rummage sale at the school to raise money for the Equine Assisted Learning classes for Red Bluff youth?”
“Sure,” I said, but I wasn’t positive it could really happen since I’m not the ultimate decision maker. The need to help students meet the new graduation requirement of community service made the idea more acceptable so the higher ups approved the event. We were off and running. Our school was going to hold its first fundraising event, a Spring Bazaar for a community organization, Daystar Ranch. Not quite a long term business, like a bakery, but a definite start.
As far as all the planning, Daystar representatives did most of the work of gathering rummage sale items and promotion. I assisted with asking staff for donations and encouraging students to help out on the day of the event. I also had students hang up flyers around town, assist with moving rummage sale items into storage on campus, and pricing items. The Daystar representatives, Liz and Joni, were super enthusiastic and motivated. They asked for donations from the community and acquired many raffle prizes, including an ATV four wheeler! They even found entertainment and a food vendor for the event. Their high energy and motivation was what made it happen. While they were literally jumping for joy, I experienced a few moments of panic when I thought we were in over our heads and worried that students might not end up helping as much as we anticipated.
4:30 a.m. on the day of the event, I woke my six year old son and we prepared for the day. I grabbed some food and toys for my son, downed an iced coffee, and headed out with more coffee for the students who I planned to pick up a 5:30 a.m. While driving to get them, I questioned whether or not they’d actually be there. I mean, what teenager wakes up that early to go to school on a Saturday? I also questioned whether any of the other students who said they’d show up early would be at the school when I arrived. I didn’t know what I would do if they didn’t show, because there was no way that we could get everything ready in time without their help. Guess what?
Every one of the students showed up! Yep. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw those tired faces staring back at me before the sun had even risen. Not only did they show up; they worked hard. They moved pile after pile after pile of stuff out of the storage room out onto the basketball court. They set up tables, moved furniture, monitored the parking lot, helped customers, hung up clothes, made announcements, took direction from several adults, cleaned up, entertained my son, and a few even danced some Zumba with me to entertain to crowd. Talk about amazing.
So many times during the day, I would look around in awe because I felt so proud of them. I didn’t have to tell them to get to work or to stop messing around. They would ask me what they could do to help or they would just take the initiative and help a customer carry her things to her car. They gave it their all and asked when we’d do it again.
At the end of the event, 4:30 p.m. we were all exhausted. Some of the students had already left, but many stayed the entire day. They gathered together on the only comfortable resting place, the worn out, unsellable couch. That beast of a couch had been moved so many times that it seemed to suck the energy out of us all. We weren’t sure why we accepted it as a donation, but there it was, bringing us together, serving a purpose. We rested, took some pictures, and laughed. One student put a mask that he’d found in the rummage sale on a round pillow from the couch. He raised it in the air and yelled, “Spirit of the couch!” Everyone repeated in unison, “Spirit of the couch!” and laughed. We put a “free” sign on the couch and moved it unto the curb. Someone eventually took it home, but without the masked pillow.
Several months since the huge event that left me so tired I could barely move the next day, a student brought in the masked couch pillow and said, “Spirit of the couch.” I laughed and repeated the chant. I know this sounds silly, but silently I thanked the couch for what it had taught me. When I saw all those students show up that day and work so hard, I felt a bit ashamed that I thought they wouldn’t show. Based on past experiences, I had reasonable doubts. Sometimes, with all the hard knocks they’ve experienced, the students can lack motivation and don’t want to participate in anything. In the past, they’ve failed in school, been hurt, and lost some of their youthful enthusiasm. Life has worn them out a bit, kind of like that couch has been worn out, but not as much as people might mistakenly think. With enough opportunities and a purpose, they will show their great potential. As worn out as that couch was, it served us well and held us up off the ground. Its potential not lost because of hard times.
My love for teaching grew that day, which I didn’t think was possible. The students inspired me to want to organize more hands-on, real life events where they have the opportunity to shine. The ideas are brewing. Something new and exciting is on the horizon.
Spirit of the Couch!!!