“For our class this Monday we’ll have a CHEERDANCE COMPETITION!”
I have no idea what our History teacher smoked that week, but that was the assignment he gave us.
That set the stage for a lesson I would NEVER forget.
In any case, we divided ourselves into groups right after that announcement. The various cliques separated into their tables and started excitedly chattering away and brainstorming, including my friends and I.
Right then and there we saw our disadvantage: The other teams had varsity members and cheerleaders. We were the class nerds.
During that free time, the five of us quietly planned and prepared a very simple and rough presentation to sing the “we are the champions” song. With our limited abilities, we knew we couldn’t do much.
Imagine waking up one morning knowing that you have to sing in front of your class but your nervoursness makes you want to vomit from embarassment. That was I felt that time.
In an attempt to console myself, I thought that if we were going to look like idiots in class, at least my friends and I will crash and burn together.
…First period started and I found out that 3 of my 5 groupmates were absent.
I definitely wanted to vomit.
Before our Presentation
The first couple of classes came and went as normal… except we were filled with dread for the history class presentation.
I wished so hard that it would get cancelled, but when history period came our teacher entered the class and announced:
“Alright, clear the center of the classroom. Move the tables to the side so we have space to perform.”
As instructed, we spent a couple of minutes pushing the tables and chairs aside and away from the chalkboard. Unused chairs were tucked in so they don’t get in the way. The five groups gathered together, many both excited and nervous for their performance.
My friend and I, the only members of group 3 who showed up, sat across the chalkboard and right in the middle of all the other groups. Groups 1 and 2 to our left, and groups 4 and 5 to our right.
When the preparations were complete, the teacher gave the scoring system:
Each group will grade the other group’s performance, 5 is the highest and 1 is the lowest.
The First Groups’ Performance
The first group with a couple of cheerleaders and a basketball varsity member and performed a short dance number. They did well, despite the limited amount of time we all had for preparation.
As the first group sat down, the teacher asked for the scores. The second group spoke first and gave them a five.
As the representative of the third group, I gave them what I believe to be a reasonably high score of four.
WE SHOULD ALL GET FIVES!! BOOOOOOOOO!!!”
One of the loud kids from the first group shouted and riled up the class.
Now, we were all friends with each other as far as I knew, so bullying like that was VERY unusual (that’s the only time I ever saw something like that happen).
In a few seconds, the entire class joined in.
“YEAH!!! WE SHOULD ALL GET FIVES!!!
BOOOOOOOO!!! WE’LL GIVE YOU A ZEROOOOOOOO!!!!
FIVES FOR EVERYONE!!!”
Imagine yourself in that situation for a moment.
The ENTIRE CLASS, your “FRIENDS,” booing at you and jeering you from all sides… and the teacher sat there in silence and just called for the next group.
Frankly, it hurt.
After the second group’s performance, my friend asked me what score to give. While being jeered by my classmates, I threw my hands up and said “You give the score.”
He gave them a five.
Our classmates jeered at us when we stood to perform. We sang the first lines of “We are the Champions” by Freddie Mercury and ended it there. I admit, it was terrible, yet our scores had been decided by the majority even before we took the stage…
…all because we decided to be honest at giving scores.
The teacher asked each group to give us our scores, and one by one it was the same:
“ZEROOOOOOOOOOO!!” shouted the loud kid from group 1.
“ZERO!!” said groups two, four, and five.
You can imagine what was going through my high-school self”s head at that time and what I felt.
“You try to do good. You try to be honest. You try to stay true to what you believe in…
… and THIS is what you get.”
“You get punished. You get branded as a failure. The ‘popular kids’ win.”
I stopped talking and I just sat there facing the wall during the next two groups’ performances. As expected, everyone gave them fives.
After the Performance
Three teams have perfect scores. One team had fives and one four.
Our team had zero.
Slowly, the teacher walked to the center of the classroom and started the usual post-competition pleasantries.
“Congratulations to all of you.” Blablabla. “You all did well” Etcetera, etcetera.
…I tuned out his speech. It all sounded like one big lie, especially to zeros like us.
…And THEN the teacher paused for a few seconds and gave one final statement.
He didn’t raise his voice or anything, but what he said next was far clearer and had more force than anything else he said beforehand.
“Alright class… It’s time to award the winners of this competition.”
“The team with the Highest Grade…
…is the team with the Lowest Score.”
It took a few seconds for the words to sink in.
“Now go and rearrange the tables and chairs back to their original locations. Class dismissed.”
At that point, I cheered my heart out.
I admit I probably annoyed just about everyone else in the class by unintentionally gloating, but I was too happy to care. My friend and I had smiles on our faces for the rest of the day, and things went back to normal after the next few classes.
That was a lesson I will NEVER forget.
The Unexpected Lesson:
Most of us want to conform to the group and do what’s popular. It’s just so easy to do what everyone else tells us to do to get their approval.
It’s much harder to do what you believe in, say what you want to say, and do what you need to do.
Leaders do what’s right, what’s FAIR, and what’s HONEST… even if it’s not popular.
Your reputation is what others think of you. They can be right, yet they can also be VERY wrong.
Your CHARACTER is who you TRULY are, and you’re the only one who knows it.
Will you sacrifice your character for a good reputation? Will you sacrifice who you are and what you believe in so you can be popular? Will you obey everyone else just because ALL say you should and they’ll harass you when you don’t?
Only you can answer that…
The whole class was silent as we all rearranged the tables (except me. I felt like I won a national championship). My classmates didn’t like that, and some started hating him because of that incident…
…but that doesn’t matter. I respect him for what he did.
He did the right thing, and I’ll always be grateful for that leadership lesson he taught that weekday morning.
“Don’t compromise your values for the sake of fitting in.”
This website’s promotional tagline is “If one lesson or article can change your life for the better, will you learn it?”
That highschool class was one lesson I’m grateful to have learned.
I’m glad he smoked whatever it is he smoked.