“Here ya go!” She said as she handed me a stack of papers with colorful crayon drawn pictures on them . “Our 3rd graders made these thank you cards for you guys!”
We had just arrived at College Park Elementary and were beginning to unload our equipment and set-up in the gymnasium for our assembly. This had to have been our 5th or 6th year in a row visiting CPE so the 3rd graders who started at CPE in pre-K would have witnessed our performance 3 years in a row.
We were there to perform as The High “Impact” Squad. The Squad, as we call them, is a team of sports super heroes outfitted in colorful spandex costumes. With names like FX, REFLEX, C-4, ECLIPSE, the High “Impact” Squad’s mission is to inspire young people to be lifetime learners who train their brains like athletes train their bodies.
Many of the younger students buy into the idea that we're sports super heroes and others realize that we're the guys who they see set up the equipment and then go put on costumes. They all love the show. Each assembly we experience with them is a raucous affair with yelling and screams of awe and delight.
We include five or six of the students in the show where they throw us alley-oop passes which we catch mid-air and dunk. It seems every last one of them wants to help when we announce that we need some assistants.
No show is ever perfect so like every other show, we have glitches, most of which are undetectable by the audience. But any missed dunk is too obvious not to notice and we may have had one or two missed dunks in this show.
Without fail, the students follow our prompts yelling out fun chants and they laugh and yell and have a blast. As they are dismissed and walk in single file lines out of the gym back to their class, some of us stand nearby and high five them as they walk by.
Once we loaded the equipment and we were in the van heading back to storage, I passed around some of the “thank you cards” the 3rd graders made. It wasn’t long before one of my teammates busted out laughing and started passing around one of the cards.
Drawn on the gray paper thicker than typing paper but not quite card stock was a red stick figure and a crude versions of our equipment. The mini trampoline was all out of scale with particular attention paid to the springs which this kid must have been fascinated by. In the corner was an oversized basketball that never would have gotten through the tiny rim attached to the flimsy basketball hoop.
Funny as these drawings were, we were used to seeing the way primary school kids interpreted the world all out of proportion. What everybody was laughing at was the “Boo you stink” message scrawled in uneven letters with purple crayon across the page.
This was a first for us. Every one of these we have ever received is gushing with praise although often misspelled. We were usually told how “Awsum”, “Amzing” and cool our “duncs” were.
I was amused and stunned at the same time. How did this get past the teacher is the first thought I had. Teachers being teachers would have turned it into a learning opportunity and given the student another opportunity to share their feelings appropriately and given us that version of the student’s thank you card.
I began to create a personality profile of this student. Was it a boy or a girl? Were they a distraction in the classroom? Was he or she a troublemaker? Maybe their home life was bleak and they had no one teaching them manners. Did their parents neglect them? Were they belittled by others or bullied and this is how they act out?
It then occurred to me that these were 3rd graders and maybe, just maybe this kid straight up didn’t like the show and this is what they witnessed people do when they don’t like a performance, they boo the performer. Also, this was our second performance of the day in hot and humid Houston, TX. No matter how well we washed the costumes it was not unusual for an odor to develop after one sweaty show. Maybe one or more of us did stink.
I ended up hanging this “Thank you card” in a supply closet at our storage. We would see this message quite a bit as we grabbed supplies out of the closet and I used it and still use it as inspiration and as a reminder to not take the young people we perform in front of for granted. I think of this kid often and when I perform at elementary schools, I imagine there’s a kid like him or her out in the audience and I’m inspired to give everything I’ve got to be extra entertaining in an effort to elicit a five star review if ever the kid is asked to provide one.
Maybe you’ve received opportunities to grow by way of a critical comment or a poor review. It’s hard not to take it personal because it is critical of you but it’s always worth taking a hard look at whatever truth might be "hidden" in the message and be inspired to learn from it.
I remain grateful!