with your education."
~ Mark Twain ~
This no-frills, low budget, childish television show concept (come on, a gorilla mask?) was immensely popular to children. It grabbed our attention and held it for one hour. I got up early to watch it in the morning. I even hurried home in the afternoon to watch it again after school. Why? Icky Twerp. He risked looking foolish to adults to get down on my level so that he could relate to me. He presented me with childish humor, he spoke my childish language, and he gave me childish entertainment.
Many adults (my parents included) considered time spent with Icky Twerp a waste of time. In looking back, though, he taught me some valuable lessons that have broad applications about relating to children, especially in my current job as a high school principal. While I have never donned a spiky wig or ill-fitting suit to make kids laugh, I have learned that my impact on the students is directly related to the relationship I have with them. Here are a few of the lessons Icky modeled for me:
Get to know your audience on a personal level.
Icky used children in the audience as contestants and he talked to them on their level.
I begin the school year by learning all of my student’s names (thank you, flash cards). There are only 250 in our high school so it is not too difficult. Who doesn’t love the sound of their name?
I think it is important to learn who plays athletics, which students are in choir, band, theatre, or student government, who is not involved in any way, and who has interests outside of school. Hopefully this communicates that what is important to them is important to me.Discover their likes & dislikes.
Icky knew what cartoons and shows kids would like. He knew they had to be short, in keeping with our attention span, and varied to keep us interested.
I use student surveys, student advisory councils, and town hall meetings to give kids a forum whereby they can voice their opinions and know that they will be heard and their wishes considered. When decisions are reached with the help of these councils, I announce the results to the student body giving full credit for the decision to the advisory council. The goal here is to empower the student body, while at the same time giving them ownership of their school. With ownership comes responsibility.
Discover what makes them laugh and be willing to risk looking foolish.
Icky knew that we would not be frightened or intimidated by him if he dressed in a goofy way. He deliberately acted silly so we would laugh and enjoy being with him.
My teachers and I try to create fun activities for the kids, to balance out all of the structure and rules. There are a few times a year, like homecoming and Christmas, when the teachers and I act out skits or sing silly songs to entertain the kids.
Let the kids know how much you enjoy their company.
The kids in the audience could tell that Icky got a kick out of being with them.
Do what you enjoy and enjoy what you do.
Icky clearly loved his job. He was consistently happy and bubbly.
Each week during student recognition, I remind the kids that there are 250 reasons why I love my job. Beyond that, however, it is important each day that my words, my tone, and my attitude leave no doubt. Some days, this is easier than others!
That’s it. That’s pretty much all I learned from Icky Twerp, but what a valuable education it turned out to be!