Saturday, June 4, 2016

Junior High Dance Survival 101

It has come to my attention that some people have not had the opportunity to chaperone a junior high school dance. To them I say “How did you get so lucky?” and “Can we trade lives?”

It's not that I dislike junior high or middle school students. I was once in middle school. The Princess and The Little Prince were once in middle school. If you think back really, really hard – back to those memories you try to repress – you will probably recall that you, too, were once in 6th, 7th or 8th grade. Think bad perms, braces, and over sized Sally Jessy Raphael glasses. Sound familiar?

Individually, these children can be mildly tolerable to almost bearable. However, when gathered in groups of two or more, junior high-age kids should be caged and tranquilized. “Middle School Teacher” is one of the virtues recognized for canonization, and an automatic “head of the line” designation for angel wings.

It's really not the kids' fault. They just have that unlucky distinction of being in the roughly 11- to 13-year old age range, frequently referred to as “possessed” – I mean, “'tweens.”

They are the victims of an uncontrollable onset of hormones – a volatile chemical combination that is constantly agitated by the same abrupt growth spurts that it causes. These once adorable youngsters are unwitting captives on an out of control Tilt-A-Whirl of emotions. The rapid personality swings from sweet, considerate child to abrasive, rude, inconsiderate, obnoxious jerk seem to confound even them. Or maybe that's just their voices breaking.

Whoever decided that hosting a dance for junior high students was a good idea had a masochistic streak a mile wide.

Whoever decided that hosting a dance for junior high students as a fund raiser had a shrewd business mind.

On any given night, the parents/guardians of a 'tween are more than willing to pay to get rid of them for a couple of hours. That is to say, they are anxious to ensure that their child is learning proper socialization skills to better interact with their peers. Failure to develop such skills would, no doubt, lead to even more nights spent at home whining that there is nothing to do and no one to do it with.

Hosting an “End of the School Year Dance” for junior high students – on the day after the last day of school – is, in theory, a brilliant marketing idea. This is attested to by the ear-splitting shrieks of joy emitted by the girls whilst hugging their BFFs, and the running, full-body slam greetings exchanged by the boys. After all, it has been upwards of 30 hours since they last saw each other leaving the same school building to which they have now voluntarily returned. (Although some of them spent the entire first day of no-school together, meaning that it's been close to two whole hours since they saw each other. Ohmygod!)

Using the term “dance” to describe this gathering is stretching the meaning of the word. Very little recognizable dancing is done, and relatively few students attempt the spasmodic flailing of limbs that passes for dancing.

The “dance” moves can be loosely categorized as:
The Repetitive Motion: A random dancer breaks out one move – such as the “running man” (the new one, duh) the “whip” or the “nae-nae” – completely unprovoked. This sets off a domino effect of random dance moves with little or no relation to the music being played.
The Line Dance: A favorite with all ages, these choreographed dances take all the pressure and decision making out of dancing – you either lead, follow, or watch from the sidelines. It also shows who knows their right from their left.
The Slow Dance: At the junior high level, the slow dance is actually a group dance which consists of one couple awkwardly swaying, straight-legged and flat-footed, while 20 other students gather around them, gawking and pointing.

To be honest, the gathering probably should be billed as a “stand,” since most students spend the evening standing/sitting and watching others. “Herd migration” would be another, more accurate description of events, as packs of students spend the evening slowly oozing around the gym floor. They approach and abut, but rarely merge with other packs, and occasionally discharge micro groups. Viewed from above, they give the appearance of a human lava lamp.

The main duty of the adult sacrifices, or “chaperones,” is to be a fun hater and to squelch any attempt at fun undertaken by their youthful charges. Chaperoning a junior high dance brings out a side of me usually reserved for Costco shopping trips with my family (“No. We do not need the industrial size vat of ketchup. No. We are not getting the Pallet 'O Jerky. You haven't finished the last one. Yes. It does go bad.)

As a chaperone, your duties will include:
Yelling. A lot of yelling. You yell because they are endangering themselves and others. You yell because the music is loud. You yell because they didn't listen the first 10 times you warned them. You yell things like “Stop. Stop! Stopstopstopstopstopslowdown!” “Don't sit on that.” “Don't sit on him.” “Get off of there.” “ForGodSake Get Off Of Her!” “Don't swing on that.” “Don't swing on them.” “Don't pick that up.” “Don't pick him up.” “Put that down.” “Put her down. Gently!”
Being alert and suspicious. You need to keep your eyes out for couples getting too friendly, groups not being friendly enough, anyone hiding in dark corners, individuals trying to escape, groups plotting a coup, and the quiet ones sitting there doing nothing. The quiet ones are always the most dangerous.
Photobombing. Nothin' says fun hater quite like popping up in the back row of a carefully arranged, “spontaneous” photo of 18 'tween girls all making a pouty face at the same time. In the future, extra chaperones will be needed just to keep up with photobomb duties. Yes. They take That. Many. Selfies.
Unauthorized Game Busting. As the night wears on (Two. Whole. Hours!) “dancers” may invent other activities to entertain themselves. The following “games” should be avoided for the health/safety/well being of all attendees: Hot Dog Free Throws (Literally. Shooting free throws with a half-eaten hot dog.) and Snotty Kleenex Soccer (Literally. Playing soccer with – you get the idea.) In a perfect world, the participants would be required to dispose of the game balls. But, to quote one gamer, “Eww. That's gross. I'm not touching that.” But you just put one up from the top of the key!
Turning on the Lights and Sending them Home. Eventually your indentured servitude will mercifully come to an end. After the last of the students has been picked up, the last of the trash thrown away, and the last of the hotdogs retrieved from behind the bleachers, you can go home and start thinking up excuses as to why you will be unable to chaperone the next junior high dance.
PS: Successfully shooting a free throw with a hot dog is much more difficult than it looks. And no. I have no idea how that ketchup got on the net.


  1. too funny!! Takes me back to my Council Bluffs teaching days...I think my wings were "backordered" though!!

  2. Love it! "Get off of her!" was a great line!

  3. So many frightful memories ...

  4. This was so funny. I must share with my friends and family members moving into this stage of their lives. And yes, brings back memories from a long time ago.