I am loving the mannequin challenge.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, the mannequin challenge involves a group of people freezing in place in the midst of a typical human activity. Somebody generally videotapes it.
Seeing people frozen-still like this is surreal. It reminds me of an episode of the Twilight Zone.
What appeals to me is the fact that teachers could get middle school kids to stand still for the time it takes to shoot the video. Adolescents typically cannot sit still for 30 seconds, let alone 5 minutes.
It takes special people to match the energy of middle school kids.
I have this experience with some frequency in my role as a middle school principal:
Parents or some other civilians are upstairs by the security desk and I’m asked to come up and escort them downstairs to the guidance office or a classroom they’ve come to visit. I meet them and ask them to follow me through the hallways when the bell rings to signal the change of classes.
I walk ahead as kids spill out into the hallway.
The next thing I know, I’ve lost my visitors! I turn around and they’re nowhere to be found, lost in a sea of 12 and 13-year-olds.*
They couldn’t keep up because most people aren’t used to the rhythms and the tempo of typical adolescents.
Any middle school teacher knows that one of the most exciting but challenging aspects of the job is the frenetic pace of life with the kids here. The executive function portion of the adolescent brain, the part that slows things down so we don’t make poor decisions, hasn’t fully developed. As a consequence, middle school kids seem to be operating at 78 rpm while the rest of us are at 45rpm. The engines in their brains have more acceleration than brake.
Great middle school teachers understand this phenomenon and capitalize on it in classroom instruction by including frequent transitions and movement in their lessons. They don’t just do one thing in a lesson (like lecture); they do at least three different activities because they know the limits of an adolescent’s attention span. They add interesting twists to lessons because middle school kids thrive on novelty. And yes, they do the manquin challenge because, well, it’s just so cool!
I’m pretty sure the mannequin challenge is going to get old soon… but I’m loving it while it lasts!
* There’s a trick. Use the biggest kid you can find, usually an 8th grader on a high protein diet, as a lead blocker. I’ve been following the same kid since February of last year. Kid’s huge! I’m gonna miss him when he goes to the high school.