“No, I’m not excited about it; it’s stupid,” she said as she unpacked her backpack.
This was a fair point. As a veteran of many, many school-wide assemblies I can say with some certainty that the likelihood of it being very boring was quite high. The flyer the school had sent home about it, however, did make it seem kind of fun. “Why is it stupid?” I asked innocently.
“Because I HATE Pop-See-Ko!”
“You hate popsicles?”
“DAAAAA-deeeeeee! NOOOOO! POP. SEE. KO.”
“What the heck is Pop See Ko?”
“It’s like, a thing, and it’s really creepy, and you have to, like, copy, like, what the people are doing, and it’s stupid and I hate it.” Well, Ruby was very clear about her feelings. And of course I had to go to the assembly to see what this was all about.
I walked into the gymnasium and looked for a place to sit, but all of the chairs had been removed and the large room was empty except for a keyboard and some speakers. Where was I supposed to sit? I saw another dad walk in, and we looked at each other, and then walked over to the cart of chairs in the back corner and pulled ourselves up a couple of them. We were not grade schoolers; we were parents. We were tired. We had earned the right to sit down.
Arranging our chairs against the back wall, we were told by the school official who apparated suddenly into our midst that we really ought to stand up so we could see better, and so we could dance and participate. Other Dad grunted something unintelligible and I pulled out my phone to check Facebook. The woman scowl-smiled at us, vanished in a puff of smoke, and was gone. Soon other parents started arriving, grabbing chairs, and joining us against the back wall. One to nothing: Tenor Dad.
When the children started filing into the gym, Edward saw me immediately and broke ranks to run over and hug me. I didn’t care, since I was already technically in trouble, but I didn’t want him to get glared at too, so I sent him back to his class, seated on the floor to the right of me. Ruby came in with her class too, looking unexcited. I couldn’t wait to find out why.
The reason for the assembly was that the school had earned 10,000 cumulative Champ Cards so far this year, and they wanted to celebrate. Champ Cards are what students get for doing nice things and behaving themselves. I like to imagine Minerva McGonagall shouting out “10 Champ Cards for Gryffindor!” although I’m sure it’s not quite like that. Anyway, the kids had been good, and so they deserved to get rounded up and forced to do something stupid. At least according to my daughter.
Having no experience with Pop See Ko, this is what I can tell you about it from the assembly. Several teachers in brightly colored wigs came to the center of the gym while a steady, thumping beat came over the speakers. The teachers then asked, in a prepared chant, if the students were ready to Pop See Ko, and then the students would stand up, one class at a time, and do a dance move specific to their group, which would then be imitated by the rest of the school. And it appeared that most kids were enjoying themselves. I was not one of those kids.
I don’t know if you want to call me elitist, or some worse name that you just thought of, but let me now tell you some slightly judgmental thing that I think in general. Here goes. I think that everyone has music and rhythm inside of them, but that without direction, teaching, and encouragement that these innate skills get rusty and people feel as though they have “no” rhythm or “can’t” sing, when in fact they might have only “some” rhythm and “can sing in a mediocre fashion.” These things can be fixed. But it upsets me when children get no direction in these areas or, even worse, when they get poor direction. Let’s say, for example, that you are standing in a large room with a steady, thumping beat reverberating loudly throughout. Then let’s say you are supposed to engage in a metered call-and-response with a group of children. Now imagine that you decide to completely ignore the beat and just start shouting things at them willy nilly, with no respect for the rhythm or the music. What do you suppose might happen?
I will tell you what might happen. Half of the children, who sorely need guidance so as not to become the sorts of people who clap on one and three, will follow you off of the beat cliff and into the ravine of random shouting with no regard for the drum machine whatsoever. Another quarter of the children, their own internal rhythm telling them to keep time, will respond in time with you, as if the beat had simply moved. Suddenly their downbeat is on beat 2, but they are going to hold tight and not let go and keep that damn rhythm. And then the remaining 25% of the children, who know in their inner hearts where the beat is, will wait until the downbeat comes around again and they will do the chant correctly, even while being shouted down by the other children. And the result is a cacophonous disaster.
Now look, I understand that these are elementary school students, only there to relax and celebrate, and that this may come off as harsh, but hear me out. When the teachers did come in on the correct beat, the entire school followed them and everyone chanted in perfectly timed unison. It was not hard for them to do at all. The only thing that threw them off was when the leaders came in incorrectly. And the leaders did not seem to care. And that sends the message that it does not matter whether or not they do it correctly. That sends the message that music and rhythm is just a bit of fun, and not an important life skill. And worse, it tells the students who were doing it correctly that their effort does not matter. Better to just give up and go with the crowd; they were winning anyway. It was at this time that the man in the chair in front of me spilled his entire large Dunkin’ Donuts coffee onto the floor and it started flowing towards my feet.
So the kids are jumping and dancing like maniacs all around me, and I am watching the coffee slowly seep in my direction, wondering where that guy went and hoping he is coming back with paper towels. What should I do? Should I move? Should I stand up? I inch my chair a little to the left, but Other Dad is there, and I don’t think he wants company. It is Ruby’s class’ turn, and they get up to do their move. She is smiling at least, but I can see in her soul that she still thinks this is stupid. I hope briefly that it is because she is a musical elitist snob like me.
I can’t really see Edward’s class because of all the dancing weirdos in front me. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken this chair. I really can’t see very well at all. I do not have the urge to dance however, because hearing people chant poorly off the beat does not do it for me. The guy finally shows up with a paper towel and stops the coffee deluge from reaching me in the nick of time, although it is clear that he is about 23 paper towels short of cleaning up his mess. He looks around, not quite as embarrassed as he should be, and leaves quickly.
He never came back.
When the assembly was over, Edward came running back over and told me he was not going to any more school today, and then his class left so he started running around the gym, much to the dismay of the assembly leader, who had just told everyone that they were going to get more Champ Cards for their good behavior. I think he finally made it back to class, although I cannot confirm that.
I met Ruby in the hallway as I left for home, and I asked her what she thought. She said that it was stupid, but not as bad as the creepy videos they make them watch in class. Well, okay, so not a total waste of time then. And then I came home and looked up the videos online. Yeah. She was right. Those things are super creepy. I hope at the next assembly it’s just some boring speaker again. And I really hope that they put someone in charge who remembers that they have rhythm. They are teachers, and the kids are learning from everything they do, even if they don’t know it. Let’s teach them that music is important.