CARY – Assistant Principal Eric Larson carried his hand-held camera as he walked up the Cary Junior High main hallway.
In single long takes, he was recording images of teachers doing kind acts for each other – and then paying it forward, such as opening a door for someone on crutches – helping pick up dropped papers or removing toilet paper from the shoes of someone who just left the bathroom.
“The exchanges were good, they’re believable,” Larson told the teachers after the first take.
After some editing, the song “One Day” by Matisyahu played in the background. The video debuted Friday as the school kicked off its fourth quarter.
This year, during quarterly assemblies, the school has shown videos produced by staff members. Each video had a message, such as how kindness to others can be a boomerang, or making the school the students’ home.
Earlier this year, the third video was of five teachers from Cary Junior High showing off uncoordinated dance moves and serenading a dragon. They were lip-syncing and dancing to One Direction’s “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful.”
To start off the year, teachers did a re-enactment of the Harvard baseball team’s dance to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” that went viral on YouTube. Staff members wanted students to be motivated to sign up for the school’s various clubs and athletic opportunities.
They also wanted to change the climate of the building, to make it more inviting and less scary, math teacher Jill Natrop said.
“It was more, welcome to junior high, this was how your teachers got to school today,” Natrop said. “I think when we did, we did it to be amusing, and never thought it would take off the way it did.”
The second video involved most of the teaching staff. They had choreographed moves through the main hallways as they lip-sang to Phillip Phillips’ “Home.”
As an added bonus on Friday, teachers also created their own “Harlem Shake” video.
Each video includes a written message for students to read at the end.
“I want [the school] to feel welcoming, I want kids to be involved, I want kids to want to get up and go to school,” Natrop said.
The videos have been popular.
“Had the students not reacted so favorably to the first one, we would have never done it again,” Natrop said. “The kids were laughing, and the parents were supportive.”
The videos have been shared on Facebook and YouTube.
Chris Thompson, a history teacher who usually wears a tie every day, said the students get to see their teachers in a different setting and maybe acting a little silly.
“I think it’s important for students to see you in a different light,” Thompson said. “So they see you’re human, there’s another side to you, another dimension. I think it makes the classroom part easier too, because they know you’re real, you’re not just this person who’s always making demands of them. You have this other side of you.”
Sixth-grader Evan Eckheart cheered when he saw one of his teachers in the kindness video. He said he has enjoyed the videos all this year.
“It shows they care about us and they’re nice,” Evan said.
Eighth-graders Brianna Waack and Carli Petri enjoyed how their teachers are willing to poke fun at themselves.
“The videos always get our attention,” Brianna said. “They’re dancing and being funny.”
Watch the videos
Cary Junior High has posted its videos on its YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/cjhdragons.