And they said snacks couldn’t save the world…
But they had never met me.
Annie Calhoun, Queen of snacks.
I have the same level of artistry as any chef when it comes to mixing snacks. It’s science. I know just how many barbecue pop chips compliment two table spoons of Chinese rick crackers and the ratio of both of these in proportion to a bowl of Sour Cream and Onion Puffs. If they had a reality TV program for this, I’d not only be on it, I’d win, then own the show, then become a snack inventor with my high profit margins.
I currently have a very nice teaching/head of a theatre department gig till my snack mixing takes off.
Lately, I’ve been dealing with a unique problem that only 10-15 High Schools in the country have; how to build ensemble and unity with students of different backgrounds who are tracked together for four long years. There are six art majors at ChiArts and I’m the head of Theatre which houses both an Acting major (70-80 students) and a Musical Theatre major (70-80 students). The same 20 students per grade are together from 2-5pm every day for four years (eight total – four Acting ensembles and four Musical Theatre ensembles). Out of the 10-15 public arts high schools in the country, we are one of the few that strives to maintain diversity and outreach to novice students. In this way, ChiArts is MUCH different than LACHSA (The LA County HS for the Arts) in LA where I just spent several years. ChiArts is comprised of 50-55% African American students, 25% Latino, 15% white and 5-10% who don’t choose to identify with one ethnicity. Our school is beautiful and yet sometimes there is a clashing of cultures and identities. Last week there was an instance where the humor in one cultural group didn’t carry over into another group. One group got offended and one was offended the other group got offended.
As I sat at home thinking this through while popping a handful of Pumpkin Spice Life Cereal mixed with 2 Multi-grain Sesame Seed Pita Chips, I was struck by the power of the crunch and the snack’s energy giving qualities to help me see more clearly. Might this crunch be missing in some of my students’ lives? Over half of my students qualify for free and reduced lunch. And regardless, all of them are ALWAYS hungry. So…
a) …might a “Theatre snack bin” lure students to my desk in room 326?
b) …and might they feel a bit obligated to say hello and possibly share an inside issue or two while retrieving the snack?
c) …therefore, might I find more socially intelligent solutions for ensembles and their conflicts/reasons behind them?
When I mentioned my snack bin idea, a few people told me:
“It’ll never work”
“You won’t be able to keep refilling the bin”
“What if one person just takes them all”
Little did these nay sayers know, they were speaking with the one day future host of a snack reality show. And little did they also know, they were dealing with a former college soccer player who was and still is very competitive.
“No!” I said to myself!
“I WILL WIN!
I found two involved awesome parents and got them onboard.
They bring in two big grocery bags of snacks on the first and third Monday of every month. I mix the snacks before they go into the bin.
Boom. Free food (mixed by an artist).
Then I found a place to lock up extras so I can portion snacks out daily into the bin.
Boom. Can’t take ‘em all at once suckers.
I told my 150 students that the snack bin was now open. Then I waited, and began to learn the following as hungry teens made their way up to room 326…
--Max you’re complaining about the monologue your teacher choose?…oh…you’re just scared because it’s a vulnerable piece. You can do it Max. And he did.
--Marissa, an ensemble is falling apart because of a student who has ADHD and is truly quite a pain in the butt? Nothing some skittles, compassion and follow through can’t fix.
--Cutting class Alice? Sure you can have a snack but sit. Let’s talk about yesterday when you snuck out…
--Sweet Jantre, your ensemble is pushing back against uniforms and you think they’re being petty? Ah. I’ll come in and talk to them again, maybe I wasn’t clear enough. Don’t cry…I mean it’s okay to cry, but I got this! It’s my job not your weight to carry.
--Diane cussed you out? That’s not okay. I’ll talk to her tomorrow
-- You never see your parents till Saturday because they work night shifts? Oh boy. That’s tough. No wonder you didn’t get in your permission slip yet for scholarship lessons.
I didn’t think anything could be better than just mixing snacks. But this was! I found I could solve sensitive issues with students and their ensembles because snacks are magical. Students tended to answer simple questions with deeper than normal answers due to some kind of subconscious agreement that this is was payment for free food. And by the way, I haven‘t fished for depth. All I ask them is “How’s your day?”
I think this might be a good element to include on my reality show. Maybe instead of the competition focusing on who can mix the best snacks, it can be: who can get the most problems solved in their school by having a free snack bin. Yeah. I think I’ll try that.