I have a good friend who teaches at the high school level.She is the drama and forensic (speech and oral interp) coach.T., as I will call her, has an outstanding speech/oral interp program as evidenced by qualifying a dozen or so students for the National Forensic Tournament each year with most of those students making it to the top 30 or better.In the past 10 years, T. has had two national winners.This is pretty darn good for a school of 700 students in South Dakota.The secret to her success, other than her positive personality, is her ability to build team and leadership skills.I greatly admire her ability to motivate students to keep pushing towards excellence, to be the best they can be.One of the team building activities she plans every year takes place the week before the rush of the holiday season and is motivated by what she exclaims as it is better to give than to receive but, oh my, it is so much more! If you work with teens on a regular basis, you have an understanding that they need a dose of public service/reality from time to time to allow themselves to move away from the “it’s all about me” mode. The endeavor has become a tradition and once something like this becomes a tradition for teens, they wouldn’t have it any other way.High school students are a ball of contradiction but that’s a whole other topic!Funny, right??

This is how T.’s teambuilding activity works.The students carve out time after school hours and into the evening the day before Thanksgiving break.The group of 25 to 30 high school teens have quite an assembly line as they work together to make treat bags, which usually include Poppy’s Gourmet Popcorn, (a local favorite), chocolate M & M and pretzels sticks.Using individual plastic bags, the bags are tied at the top with ribbon and a sticker is placed on the front of the bag that reads, “There are not words to express our HOPE for the HEALING of your loved one! Thinking of you! The OG Speech Team (treat bags made fresh 11/25/15)”.

The team is then broken into smaller groups to deliver the treat bags to the waiting rooms at 5 hospitals, a cancer center and children’s hospital.These bags are for the families who have loved on in the hospital and can’t spend Thanksgiving in their homes. According to T.’s Facebook post: “Kids reported back of such things as happy tears, little kids gobbling up their snack, and even a student performing her storytelling piece in the cafeteria at the heart hospital.”

What this activity does for the students is to allow them to understand that not only are they are offering a benevolent hand to people who have loved ones in the hospital during Thanksgiving, they begin to understand that this school community supports and cares deeply for people outside the community – that they are responsible for taking care of each other.Hopefully these are life lessons that will carry into adulthood.After working with teens for 23 years, I think I understand (most of the time) how their brains work.So I’ve discovered you just throw things out there.Sometimes they stick.Sometimes not but you just keep on trying anyway. And maybe, just maybe, memories from past experiences will allow them to become a better person and adult. They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel. —Carl W. Buehner. Isn’t that what our involvement in making music together can do for our singers and us?

See pictures of T.’s 2015 treat bag adventure. How can you use this type of activity to build team with your singers? Happy New Year!