“Teacher In Service” – a day off for students and a day of work and learning for teachers themselves. This year USD 247 Southeast held two of their In Service days on the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, giving students the full week off, and teachers some quiet time to work on curriculum, prepare for the weeks ahead leading to the Christmas Break, have a Bear-Salmon-Mosquito competition, and time to cross the Amazon River.
MONDAY, 11:05 A.M.
Just before going to lunch Superintendent Brad Miner brought all of the USD 247 teachers into the west gym at Southeast High School.
“I like to do some team building things every once in a while because we’re so spread out,” he told the teachers. “Our elementary staff very seldom gets to talk to junior high and high school, and it’s the same for every level. We’re all one big team and so I want you to know other people in other buildings.”
“This is a pretty simple activity and I think you’ll have fun, and I need you to tell me first of all, can you do this?”
Mr. Miner pinches his fingers repeatedly like he’s squashing a bug and the teachers laugh as they all show that they can.
“And if you notice I’m checking for understanding and I have one hundred percent – good – we know how to do that.”
He then waves one hand back and forth across his body, in a swimming type of motion. The teachers again repeat the action.
“I heard somebody say this looks like a fish – well, it’s more specific than that – it’s a salmon. The other one – this one’s a mosquito.”
Finally, he raises his arms up over his head and shows his claws.
“A bear” the crowd says.
“We’re going to play the Rock-Paper-Scissors Olympics, and we’re not using Rock-Paper-Scissors. We’re using the mosquito that bites the bear, the bear takes the salmon, and the salmon eats the mosquito.”
Mr. Miner asks Jeremy Goode to come down to the gym floor to demonstrate how the competition will be held, and as Mr. Goode makes his way down the crowd applauds and cheers him on.
“That’s really good, that cheering, because that’s a part of this as well,” Mr. Miner tells them.
Mr. Goode and Mr. Miner stand back to back as Kaci Coots counts to three – “one, two, three!” and the two grown men jump and turn. Goode – a salmon, loses to Miner, who has his arms up and is growling like a grizzly bear.
“I won – and here’s the important part – Jeremy (Goode) just became my cheerleader,” Mr. Miner explains. “He’s going to follow me and I’m going to go find somebody else, and we’re going to have another winner. So then that person will have two cheerleaders and it’s going to go on and on until we end up with two people and two big groups cheering them on.”
“And when we get down to the final two – the winner gets a gift card from the Mall Deli – $20.”
Around 40 teachers are in attendance and they roar their approval.
Over the next several minutes the teachers compete and laugh. Rebecca Logan’s bear beats Saundra Martinie’s salmon. Mr. Goode and Cherie Witt tie several times before Witt’s mosquito finally beats Goode’s bear – and Goode bows to the ground in defeat.
Finally – after several rounds it’s the showdown – Daniel Renn versus Melanie Evitts. Mr. Miner stirs the frenzy and introduces the two and their respective fan clubs cheer them on.
Mr. Miner yells “One! Two! Three!”
Mr. Renn jumps, turns and growls, his bear claws towering over Mrs. Evitts, who has her hand out, pinching her fingers – mosquito – for the victory and free lunch.
TUESDAY, 10:50 A.M.
Again, it’s nearly lunch time as the teachers from Southeast Elementary, Southeast Junior High and Southeast High School walk into the west gym of SHS. Huge tarps cover nearly the entire gym floor and at the other end of the gym are seven stacks of old tires, with four tires per stack.
“I don’t want anybody to get hurt – this is to have fun,” Superintendent Brad Miner says. “The title of this activity is ‘Crossing the Amazon’ – this lovely black tarp is the Amazon River.”
“Your entire team has to cross the Amazon using the tires and you can’t touch the Amazon, all you can touch is the tires and each other – so be nice. If you get halfway across the Amazon River here and somebody accidentally touches the river you have to go all the way back, the whole group, and start again.”
“You’re not finished unless your whole team crosses the finish line,” Mr. Miner says. “There is a prize. Every person on the team that finishes first, again, I’ve got $20 Mall Deli gift certificates for every person on that team.”
The teachers are divided up into seven teams – each team has at least one staff member from each of the school district’s three buildings – and the teams brainstorm for a few minutes to determine the best way to cross.
“Go!” shouts Mr. Miner and the race is on.
The teams all use the same basic strategy – some just do it a little better than others. With two people balancing themselves per tire, three tires are used to hold each group. The fourth tire is rolled to the front of the group where it’s thrown out ahead. Everybody then shifts forward one tire, and the back tire is again rolled to the front.
Occasionally the lead tire is thrown out just a little too far and the team has to work together to reach forward to reel it in closer.
Most of the groups have six team members and it’s the smallest team – a group of five – that quickly gets and holds the lead.
Derek Sanders and Jason Wilderman stand together on the lead tire, Linda Gage and Colleen Lacher share the second tire, and Jim Rockers sits on the third tire, easily able to grab the rear tire and roll it forward. It’s not even a contest and they easily win with some room to spare.
“Once they figured out their plan and they stuck with their plan they had it,” Mr. Miner said afterward.
The race for second place – $10 gift certificates to the Mall Deli – is much closer and it comes down to the group that is able to get into and stay in rhythm. Stabling each other, in unison Carla Lewis and David Dainty step to the lead tire with their front foot, then their bring up their back foot. Behind them Marta Ward and Debbie Clawson do the same, then Cherie Witt and Daniel Renn. Mr. Renn grabs the tire, rolls it forward to Coach Dainty, who puts the tire just in front of them, and they repeat the process until they reach the river’s bank, taking second place.
“I was so proud of how everybody participated and it was so great – one teacher saying ‘I’ve got you’ – that’s cool,” Mr. Miner said afterward. “It wasn’t easy.”
“Team building exercises like this are especially important for us because we’re so spread out and they don’t get very many opportunities to come together,” he continued. “Everything they do from grade to grade, especially in academics, makes a difference. If the elementary doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do, it makes it harder on the junior high. If junior high doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do, it makes it harder on the high school. It’s a team effort. So this is an opportunity to get all of them together working together as a team, and not just with their building – we’re all in this together.”
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