Monday, November 11, 2013

Reveal Day

An Absolutely Perfect Day - a timeline

After months of planning and weeks of teasing, The Book was revealed at approximately 10:15am on Friday, November 1st.  We have lots of video footage and encourage you to watch it all.  Below you'll find a timeline of events and the corresponding videos.  But the real story isn't in what was captured by cameras, but in the little moments that happened off screen.  This week, we'll share those
with you and spend just a few more moments reveling in the miraculous, wonderful, marvelous, serendipitous perfection. 

Reveal Day:
  • We smile at each other across the parking lot; our first words are not of excitement or anticipation but of nausea "I'm feeling sick."  "Me too!  Why are we so nervous?" 
  • Twenty-six balloons (spectacle) are pulled from vehicle as gusts of hurricane-strength wind whip us forward.  Okay, it wasn't a hurricane, but it was really, really windy on Friday.
  • Still suffering from nausea, we decide not to talk about gastric ailments anymore.
  • CATCHING FIRE and DIVERGENT - the final two books - are retrieved.
  • Three crazy reading ladies head up to the VideoTeam news studio.
  • In-the-know Principal wishes us well as kids enter school "Oh my gosh this is it!  You're going to tell us right now! I can't wait!" Gaggle of tweens misses sarcasm.
  • Over-caffeinated VideoTeam news kids greet us: "Is today the day?!"  "You're gonna reveal it right now?"  "We'll be the first to know!"
  • Erin is concerned about her acting skills paling in comparison to Theatre Major Mary's.  The argument is practiced.  Again. 

  • Crazy Reading Ladies storm out of news studio.  On the library stairs, our breathing returns to normal; smiles appear on faces.  "I think we pulled it off!"
  • Kids in News studio ask, "Wait, are they coming back?"
  • On the way to our classrooms, kids catch up to us in the hallway (those little buggers are fast.) Mary secures sanctuary in guidance office.  Erin continues to fuel drama.
  • "Did that really just happen?" "Are you and Ms. Cotillo in a fight?"
  • Principal goes on PA system and announces a surprise assembly at 10:00am.  He keeps up the act by saying "I have no further information at this time."  
The element of surprise was absolutely essential to the magic of Reveal Day, and it was preserved by our phenomenal staff.  Days earlier, a "spoiler" email was sent out giving play-by-play details of the morning.  Everything except the title itself was revealed in that email.  To our delight, many teachers decided they didn't want to know what was happening and never opened the email; they wanted to experience the thrill with the kids.  The 6th grade teacher who burned our iMovie to a DVD the day before refused to watch it in advance.  How cool is that?
  • Principal assists in readying equipment in auditorium.  Crazy Reading Ladies do not have much patience for technical difficulties.  DVD works fine.  Audio CD does not; it is ditched.
  • CRL notice Principal wearing his Hobbit shirt for the occasion. "I gotta represent."
  • Auditorium is properly blinged out.  Balloons are moved no fewer than four times.  (We love our students, but excited kids and helium are a dangerous combination.)
  • Charade is maintained during hall monitoring between classes.  CRL continue to argue and roll eyes in each other's presence.   Mary baits Erin by smugly reassuring kids that CATCHING FIRE is *the* book, because "You know I'm gonna get my way."  
  •  Concerned children become emotionally unglued.  We have messed with them an awful lot this week.
  • Mary puts her theater degree to work when she faces her first class of the day.  "I don't even know."  and "I *thought* we'd agreed; I guess not."  and "We'll try to have a decision on Monday" become standard replies to impatient questions.
  • Parent notices are copied and collated and the memory is deleted from the RISO machine.  You know what they say: Loose lips sink book reveal assemblies.
  • Emmett arrives. We hug him.  We are reminded of how awesome he is and how dearly we miss him.  The charade is briefly busted when Erin escorts Emmett to Mary's room.  It's hard not to smile watching them embrace.  He decides to visit a few of his middle school teachers before hiding out and practicing his speech.
  • Yes, his speech.  When we invited Emmett to be part of our master plan, we knew we wanted to present his award and give him the honor of revealing the book.  He asked if he could write a speech.  No, you can't have him.
  • We run through the assembly in Erin's classroom.  Erin hears Emmett's speech for the first time and is blown away.  The term "occipital cortex" put us over the edge, but his sincerity and heart made us weep.  Mary will hear it along with the school thirty-some minutes later.  One of the best parts of the video is seeing Mary react to the testimony from her former student.
  • Lights go down and we are on.  Kids scream and clap as we approach the podium.  

  • As we stand behind Our Boy, we are overcome with emotion.  Perhaps it was seeing Emmett at the podium, or watching the standing ovation he earned from 497 middle schoolers.  Maybe it was feeling the energy in that room, the palpable anticipation and excitement...about a book.  Maybe it was the three of us standing next to each other, and hearing the unspoken words float between us: "This couldn't possibly have been any better."
Rule #1 of teaching is: Never do something the students can do for you.  Well this takes the cake.  No matter how many degrees, years of teaching experience, or administrative clout we put behind that podium, no one, absolutely NO ONE could have motivated those students the way our superlative freshman did.  Emmett not only did something we could not, he did it better than anyone ever could.  It was humbling to be in that room and simply bear witness.

  • "And the book is DIVERGENT!" 
  • Room positively erupts in book-generated euphoria and the following CRL creation is aired. 

  •  During the video, the CRL distribute fliers to students and teachers in the pitch-dark auditorium (in heels, thankyouverymuch.)
  • Somehow, we were able to find each other and watch the last few minutes together.  The reaction to the video was surreal.  Of course, our cherubs sang along to "the Hobbit song" (in case you were wondering, Pavlov was dead-on) but when Eminem filled the air, they gasped and echoed his words perfectly in sync to the music.  The CRL cried.  Again.
Since last year taught us the importance of music, we spent a considerable amount of time deciding on an anthem for this year's book.  Although we knew this song would be perfect, we were taking a chance with Eminem.  Yes, we were only using the chorus,'s Eminem.  We wanted something to grab their attention and perk the boys' ears.  The song was chosen long before the reveal was even planned, and the students' reaction told us we had a winner.  

Despite our promises that it would be worthy of an article, a reporter never came to Reveal Day; however, the local paper did send a photographer to capture the event.  And he had some questions for Emmett and the CRL after the assembly was over. 

"What was that?" he asked.  "Who are these kids?  Are they all going to the movies - like, did they win something?"

No, we explained.  This was the student body.  They just found out the title of the book that we'd be reading this year.

The man shook his head and said "I've never seen anything like that.  What did you do to these kids?"

1:50 pm 
  • Four hours after the assembly, Erin was waiting for dismissal with a group of her seventh-grade girls.  In chatting about the reveal, one of them said, "You know, last year I didn't do The Hobbit.  I mean, I tried, I started it...but I just couldn't get into it, so I stopped.  And you guys had so much fun.  I'm really disappointed in myself.  I'm not letting that happen again.  I don't care what it takes.  I'm going all in this year."
Without even knowing it, she gave the CRL the cherry on top of their dystopian sundae.  Not only was she motivated to participate, it was also the first time we heard "all in" from a student.

It's official.  We're All In!

Mary @mzcotillo and Erin @allinoleary