Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Mike & Duane Show – not your typical school assembly

I work at a school that’s atypical in a number of ways. It’s a 110 year old, co-ed, private K-12 school (housed in one building) in the heart of Chicago, and our educational philosophy is based on progressive, constructivist, democratic ideals. We are pretty intentional about things like building a safe, productive community in which everyone’s voice is welcomed, in which challenging one another and challenging previously unquestioned ideas and assumptions is encouraged, and where differences are valued as strengths, especially when our differences challenge one another to be more knowledgeable, more thoughtful people. We have a common language and shared ideals with which everyone is familiar and by which everyone strives to abide, including:
  • Our motto: “Everything to help and nothing to hinder.” – Francis W. Parker (our founder)
  • “A school should be a model home, a complete community, an embryonic democracy.” – Francis W. Parker
  • “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” – 1 Corinthians 12:26 (We are not a religious school, but this biblical quotation is a guiding adage that has been part of our expectations for one another for generations.)
There’s a lot of history, and a lot of tradition, at the school. But it’s not all about being serious and stoic. We try to be a place where the whole person is welcome – whether that whole person is a student, a family member, or a faculty or staff member. And that means that we share gifts, abilities, talents (and challenges) that are parts of our ‘real world’ lives with one another, even if those things might not be welcome in other, perhaps more traditional schools. At our school, students and teachers laugh together (and cry together), and teachers share things about their ‘real lives’ that the school culture in other settings might discourage – things like our whole identities, our political beliefs and convictions, what we did over the weekend, and when we are an awesome break dancer. (Which I am not.) And one of the things we love to share with one another is HUMOR!

A relatively new tradition at our school (ranging back to at least 2006) is the annual Mike and Duane Show – a production that essentially boils down to a comedy sketch show presented primarily by faculty and staff, with occasional student involvement. It includes comedy routines, dances, music videos, and always a princess number. It’s a pretty serious undertaking and a beloved piece of our school community.

Last year I shared with you the “Bad” video that was a part of the 2010 Mike and Duane Show. (And it’s totally worth revisiting, or visiting for the first time if you’ve never seen it.  How often have YOU watched your Assistant Principal dance Michael Jackson through the halls while being backed by a gang for faculty and staff?!)

This year, I thought I’d share a little more – both present and past. This year’s show was fun. It included lots of singing and dancing, a video/live performance of an original tune, a high school science teacher showing off his aerial acrobatic skills, and a crazy music video mash-up of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” Katy Perry’s “Firework,” Onyx’s “Slam,” and Ok Go’s “End Love.” (The links will show you video of these acts.)

But, to give you an idea of the tone in which the show is presented, here was this year’s introduction (inspired by The Electric Company, of course):

(And in case you want to know, Duane is a counselor in our Middle School, Mike works in our afterschool program for K – 5th graders, and Casey (Hudetz – thus “Chudetz”) teaches in the Middle School computer lab.)

Every year's show features a faculty number which typically recreates some pop culture dance from the previous year – ranging from the Jai Ho to the Sound of Music flash mob in Amsterdam to this year’s Double Dream Hands, of which I was a part. See if you can spot me:

And there is typically at least one performance by faculty and staff who actually live up to the title ‘dancer.’ This year, said talented folks did a remake of Janet Jackson’s "Rhythm Nation."

There are MANY a great Mike and Duane act from years past. Here are a few of my favorites:

(The prince is played by our assistant principal, the cop is our technology facilitator, and the cab driver is one of our high school science teachers.)



For us, part of being a community means making time to laugh together and making time to share our talents – both those of the students and those of faculty and staff. And we like to have fun. Isn't that how school should be?!

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