My ASB Director stood, her arms crossed in front of her, and frowned at the open Conex box. Following her gaze I looked down at trash bags of sponges, plastic buckets filled with wiffle balls, and a pile of foot and a half long two by fours. “What are those for,” I asked, pointing at the lumber. She answered without taking her eyes off the debris in the storage container. “Giant Jenga,” she said with a straight face. And then she laughed.
This, in a nutshell, is ASB, Associated Student Body, more a lifestyle than a class.
In the world of school, ASB students and directors have lots of work to do (maybe organizing a large storage container), administrators asking them questions, and the ability to come up with the idea of, and then say the phrase “Giant Jenga” without breaking the look of determination needed to get the job done. …and they still have time for laughter.
On any campus ASB is the lifeblood of student activity. They’re the ones willing to open their arms to new students in delightfully off kilter ways: a hula hoop contest on the first week of school, a scavenger hunt to explore the changes to campus, and for us at Diegueño Middle School this year a twist on the age old jog-a-thon: an October Zombie Run.
The reaction to the event was marvelous. Our steadfast AP asked the conservative questions a steadfast AP ought to ask: What will parents think of a Zombie Run? Remember, we’re talking about the undead here. “The Jogging Dead!” I added. They both winced.
Our drama teacher celebrated, offering to help teach a “zombie tutorial” on how to look and act undead. “A lurch-a-thon” I offered. Another wince.
And then the kids, and at a middle school it always comes back to the kids: they loved it. They took the idea back to their parents, and good taste added a word to the title: “Zombie Fun Run!”
It’s not that students always get exactly what they want. I remember an ASB Director telling me about her informational meeting before a school wide dodgeball tournament. She gathered the teams around her, held up her fingers and said “Three rules… One, no unitards.” The wrestling team had participated the year before (to the uncomfortable gawking of the crowd). “Two, no team names with naughty puns or innuendo.” Groans. “And three, no team names that include the word balls.” Shrieks of grief as the teenaged boys lamented the fact they’d have to come up with different team names. Good ASB Directors laugh at such things, and help students learn boundaries, even as they sometimes push those boundaries.
ASB is the spirit of campus, and in their attitudes and actions one can get a sense of the school. In my first year at Diegueño I knew I’d come home when I saw three manifestations of the character of our ASB.
The first, when our school grew over the summer, with about a hundred more students than we’d had the year before, we found ourselves short on science labs. Without missing a beat our ASB Director offered her room (with a sink and good ventilation) to be transformed into a science lab. This meant that she would have to share rooms and that ASB would need to move lots of supplies, and she did it for the good of the school.
Her students, seeing such great modeling, overflowed with generosity as well, and over the summer, while construction had campus closed to the public, they came to school and helped us film an orientation video for new students. These quality kids could have been at the beach or by the pool, but they strapped on hard hats and helped make Diegueño a more welcoming place for new students.
The third instance of ASB character, and a reminder of the exuberance of youth, came on Back to School Night as legions of ASB students filled campus to direct parents to classrooms, answer questions, and charm every adult in sight. Aggressive human directionals, they approached parents with passion and purpose and led them where they needed to go with a smile. These students showed their school spirit and love of helping in an endearing and awesome way.
On a campus with great kids, ASB is a synecdoche of all that is right with youth today. Kind, curious, and energetic, these students (led by an adult who shares their sense of adventure) reassure me that all will be well, and pretty fun too.
And this spring, when our whole school participates in Diegueño Spirit Day, I’m looking forward to challenging my ASB Director to a lively game of Giant Jenga.