On a Friday afternoon, very close to the end of the school day, two students sit at a long table in the otherwise empty cafeteria at Fort Campbell’s Wassom Middle School. They ignore the large piles of books in front of them and cast anxious glances toward the clock on the wall.
Though the scene may have looked like two kids in detention, willing their time in confinement to speed by, the reality was much more positive. The students, 12-year-old Olaf. B. Coleman and 11-year-old Carla Cavaco, were early arrivals to a special celebration, where an extra special visitor was expected.
The celebration was designed to shine recognition upon the students of Wassom who practiced good citizenship and followed classroom guidelines.
“The teachers have this spreadsheet on the computer,” said Coleman. “If you get three checks, you get a mark on the sheet which means you are not allowed to come to these ceremonies.”
“We have a reward party every nine weeks to reward those children who haven’t forgotten supplies, who’ve been here on time and who’ve been a joy to be with,” explained Jo Amans-Hamill, a teacher at Wassom. “Not everybody is a joy all the time; so if you’re not, you don’t get to be here for the party, and those kids missed something really special this time.”
There are two things Amans-Hamill, or “Ms. Jo” loves: hockey (she’s a Nashville Predators season ticket holder) and her students. On Friday, she used one to reward the other.
“I noticed that one of the things you can do as a season ticket holder is have Gnash [Predators mascot] come for an event,” she said. “I figured the kids would enjoy something like that; I called them up and said we had an event at a military school, and they said they would come.”
As the students awaited his arrival, they enjoyed snacks and let Ms. Jo lead them in some of their favorite dances. Gnash was met with a burst of cheers as he charged into the cafeteria, wasting no time to join the teacher on stage and help lead the crowd in the “Cupid Shuffle.” He also joined them in favorites like the “Wobble,” the “Cha-Cha Slide” and the ever popular “Macarena.”
The only break Gnash took was to let each of the kids have their pictures taken with him.
“They went above and beyond,” Amans-Hamill said of the Predators franchise. “Instead of being here for half an hour, they were here for over an hour. Gnash gave out autographs and he danced with us; that was just classic.”
“It’s really fun and really nice to get away from classes,” said Coleman, who feels that events like the reward party are effective incentives for behaving well in school.
“If you don’t reward people who are being good, then they’ll start to wonder why being good is so important.”
“Sometimes the people who are acting bad try harder to be good because these ceremonies are basically a goal for being good,” agreed Cavaco. “Maybe if other schools do things like this, they’ll be anti-bullying and free from bad stuff.”