Lessons from the Field: 30 Short Minutes; Looking Back on Mixing It Up

As we approached Mix it Up Day, I felt exactly the way the rest of the school did. How many people were going to buy in? What was going to be end result? Would it improve all of the divisions in our school? How would it work? I got a strong sense that many things were up in the air.  

And to be honest, I was very uncertain that the school’s big risk to pull off this event was going to have a positive return on investment.

I think a lot of the student body that had a negative experience at lunch decided their time was going to be negative beforehand, and never actually gave the opportunity a shot. People are so self-centered with their friends and social life that they dare not go outside their social circles. Our society must understand that it is possible to like others outside of those that are frighteningly similar to us — and that sometimes a difference and diversity of people at any level can actually not be a bad thing.

To say it frankly, bringing your friends with you and transplanting them in all stages of your life is an unrealistic thought. At some point, everyone will be placed in a situation or location where they don’t know a single person and won’t have any friends. A critical life skill we must all learn is how to interact with new people and make new friends. The 5 or 6 students who you sat with for 30 minutes on Tuesday were not supposed to be your new best friends for life. Instead, their purpose was to expose you to new people and ideas that THS has to offer, and to practice meeting new people in the real world, a situation we will all face sooner than later.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to attend a national Life Skills and Leadership Academy with The First Tee, a youth golf program I’ve been involved in for nine years at Michigan State University. I flew alone for the first time into Detroit, an airport I had never been to, and was to spend the week with people I had never even seen before (at Mix It Up Day you had at least seen the people in the hallway).

Going in, I was honestly so afraid. Was I going to be cool enough? Were people going to pay attention to me? Were they going to be weird? Was I going to be noticed? How nice are the people going to be? How does their golf game compare to mine? Getting off the plane at DTW, I was ready, but nervous.

Actually, I ended up having one of the best weeks of my life. Everyone there gelled together so quickly, and I ended up making closer friends in one week in the middle of The Mitten vs. friends that I’ve known for years back at THS. Yes, it was a little weird and hard to get to know everyone at first, but being nice, giving a smile, and showing politeness was my ticket and everyone else’s to social success that week. Sure, there were people there that I thought were annoying and didn’t really want to talk to, but for the most part, forcing myself to be outgoing and open to becoming friends with new people created one of the most beneficial weeks of my life.

The same goes for the workplace, a new school, or if you suddenly end up in a completely new town after leaving home. You’re going to know nobody. So you have to know how to gain the skills to change that.

Other than what most people think, I actually do listen and pay attention to all the rumors and “tea” circling around our school. I have eyes and ears too, believe it or not. One of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard was that up to 50 students left prior to lunch and were picked up by their parents because they didn’t want to participate. In ten years when you have a real job and real responsibilities, and might have a corporate meeting downtown in a city with company executives that have more power than you and may be trying to rip apart the plan you’re about to propose, your Mommy and Daddy aren’t going to be able to pick you up and rescue you from the situation. You’re gonna have to meet it with fearlessness, something others can’t teach you.

So might as well practice it now during a 30 minute lunch with people that don’t bite.

Although we would like to hope that Mix It Up Day provided more benefits than negatives to our school, I do understand some of the issues students brought up concerning the operation and overall feeling of the event. We all have our own opinions on certain social and political issues in today’s society, and a lot of students had a problem with the event being too focused on all students “loving” and “showing appreciation” for each other. I completely understand this, and actually, it was one of my concerns going into the event. I figured the perception was going to be that the event’s purpose was going to try to make everyone “coexist” with one another so we ALL could get along.

And in today’s world, I completely recognize that not everyone is going to get along with each other. To be honest, I don’t get along with everyone either. We all have our disagreements, and it is natural to not like or want to be around certain people. This is a simple fact of life.

However, there will be situations in the real world (which is not high school) where you will be forced to interact with those you don’t like, and a 30 minute period of your life will not scar you forever. In fact, it hopefully should of helped participants figure out how to deal with those situations.

A lot of people at THS have always said during my time here that social groups are too isolated, and that our school lacks a general sense of unity on many fronts. When our ambassador group de-briefed right after C lunch on Tuesday, the only student in the room who had gone to high school somewhere other than Talawanda said when they came here, they were welcomed quickly, but that it was a lot more “cliquey” than the other schools they had been too.

I can see this too. I know it is natural to have separation of different people because everyone is attracted to those that are like them. Personally, I definitely wouldn’t fit in with the band kids, or the ones that are really good with computers. There is nothing wrong with it, but our personalities simply just don’t match up. However, if one of those kids wanted to be a part of my group, I would welcome them, because being selective of who can join your group is simply not right, and I see people being selective every day in this building.

That is one thing that HAS to stop. To call yourself a Talawanda student, you must be better than that. Our standards need to be higher.

To heal the social divisions and yes, stupid drama we see at THS, an event to understand more about each other like Mix It Up Day was a brave, but necessary attempt to unify our student body and create a sense of similarity between us. No it wasn’t perfect. Yes, it could of better, or more fun, or more organized, or whatever you may think. But at the end of the day, Mix It Up Day did some positive things. Our school took a massive risk to entertain this idea, and I credit everyone involved in organizing it.

I just hope next time our school is a little more accepting and open to temporary, simplistic change.

Patrick Geshan hosts “The Final with Patty G” weekdays on Brave TV.


To read background information on Mix-it-Up Day see K. Del Vecchio’s article at http://talawandatribune.org/2018/10/22/mix-it-up-day/