I’m standing in front of approximately half of the students of my school together with one of my friends and we’re expected to dance and sing in a few moments. I quickly scan the room for possible escape routes but it’s already too late and the music starts playing…
I pinch myself, expecting to wake up at any moment but I’m not sleeping! So how did I get myself into this situation, you wonder? Let me explain….
Everything began a few days ago during French class. Our teacher told us that we would get the chance to see a French play at our school because a French theatre-group would be passing through Adamstown this week and showing their current play at Adamstown College.
As I have already come to expect, this event will not be free. Every student will have to pay 6 Euro to attend. But again, this is worth it, because to see the play you have to miss three classes including PE and chemistry. Up to this point I still had a positive outlook on the upcoming event but all that was about to change…
The teacher now told us that they would need two volunteers. They would have to “read” a short text in front of the audience. Why have I put quotation marks around the word “read”? You’ll soon learn why, just wait and see…
Do you know this feeling when you are asked to volunteer for something but you have absolutely no desire to take part in an activity? A “deer staring at the headlights” kind of moment?
Over the years I have found the following strategy to be very effective to avoid being picked, I have labelled them the “PLEASE NOT ME” rules:
1. Avoid Eye contact!
The teacher is more likely to choose someone who looks into his eyes.
2. Don’t move!
Any noise or movement means that you will be noticed and that you could be chosen.
3. Look at your worksheet!
Looking out of the window means, you’re not interested and the teacher might pick you, just to teach you a lesson.
4. Don’t Breathe!
Not sure why, but this seems to help. If you do this for too long you’re in conflict with rule two because your head will turn bright red.
Extra tip: Depending on the situation you can also try to look busy, for example if you pretend to search for something in your schoolbag. However, do so quietly (see rule two).
The rules work well most of the time, however most students know them and tend to use them. So if all the students use the same tactics, you can still get picked. Some teachers deliberately pick students who are using the “Please Not Me” rules. If you know this about a teacher, abandon the rules and just volunteer enthusiastically right away. Then you are sure that you will not be picked.
By now you probably think “why doesn’t he volunteer? Reading a text sounds like fun!” Yes, but the problem is that you cannot trust your teachers to tell you the whole truth about an activity. They know that if they told the whole truth from the start, many students would faint or even run out of the room or try to fake a heart attack.
If only I had taken my own advice. But when my classmate said “Tim, let’s volunteer together, I think this could be fun!” I abandoned all caution in a moment of madness and said “Yes”. At this point we both still believed against all previous experience that we would simply have to read a couple of lines from a sheet of paper.
A couple of days later, our names were called over the speaker system. We went to the schools largest room where hundreds of chairs were ready for the big audience. Apart from me and my classmate, there were also five other volunteers from other classes. The room was still empty as we were only there to learn about our part in the play.
Soon after, the French theatre-group entered the room. You probably think it was a pantomime group, but no not all French theatre groups are pantomime groups. That’s just a common cliché. They were quite friendly and also funny, cracking a lot of jokes while explaining our task.
Our group of volunteers was made up of two boys (me and my classmate) and five girls. Of these seven people two would have to sing and dance while the others would only have to sing. The words “sing” and “read” have the same number of characters but obviously they are completely different types of activities. Now you know why I’ve used the quotation marks.
To make matters worse, for reasons only known to the French theatre group, my classmate and I were picked for the sing/dance part! Before I had a chance to snap out of my “deer in the headlight” moment and run into the forest, a huge crowd of students started to enter the room.
Our French teacher was sitting in the audience too. Feeling just slightly deceived, we made our feelings known but she just laughed and waited for the show to begin.
In the end it wasn’t as bad as I thought (it usually isn’t) but still I’ve learned yet another lesson about volunteering. I’m just glad that phones aren’t allowed at our school, so what happens in Vegas, um I mean Adamstown, stays in Adamstown.
What was the song we had to sing? “Le Lion est mort ce soir”, which is the French version of “The lion sleeps tonight…”.