If you clicked on this article in hopes of a great story about how a student dropped a camera in spaghetti and ruined an Emmy award-winning package, you have come to the wrong place.
This is the story of how my love for school spaghetti lead to a school-wide conversation about media influence and message control.
A major part of my decision to leave the industry and join the ranks of educators was the possibility of school spaghetti and those rolls that go great with mashed potatoes. Each month, I circle the dates for those two delicacies and make sure to hit the gym a little harder before the intense carb load that is to come.
The week before Thanksgiving, the December menu was released. I scanned across the dates, and to my dismay, spaghetti was to be served on one day… December 16th. Adding insult to injury, the last time spaghetti was served was early in November. I made a comment about it to my students, and they all gave me the confused puppy look.
That afternoon, the idea hit me to make a bit out of it. I used to do a lot of dumber things when I was in radio. This one would be a layup. The next day, I sent a student out for a "look live" from the cafeteria. The idea was he was to say that the menu came out, and spaghetti is only available one day. Many teachers had contacted their lawyers to discuss contracts. (I forgot to tell my principal about this until after it aired… she was cool with it. Actually loved the idea)
My principal was so excited about SpaghettiGate2019 I am certain she lost sleep coming up with ideas like "go to the greenhouse and have the agriculture students plant spaghetti trees" and "maybe go out to the pond where the outdoor education class has found some spaghetti trees growing in the wild." Having a principal that supports the silliness that can broadcast is a major plus… it comes with time and the trust built over time, but it makes a major difference in what I get to do every day.
SpaghettiGate2019 was on! We got a little bit of a pop of the first hit in the show, and when we returned after the Thanksgiving holiday, the full-court press was on! We did hits every day about SpaghettiGate2019, including one day where we did look lives from outside the office of every administrator in the building and a conference room where a "called meeting" was in session.
Then it happened, the bit landed. After about 3 days, there were rumbles in the hallway about spaghetti, questions for me about why I love spaghetti so much, and ultimately a counter-protest. On the day, I thought we jumped the shark and did a full-on blitz like all tv news when a snowflake is spotted in Georgia, I was standing at my desk, and a social studies teacher and a class of students walked in with "no pasta" armbands. They stood in silent protest for 3 or 4 minutes then walked out. The best part of this silent protest is that the teacher was teaching about protests and the protection of those rights by the supreme court. His plan was to have them protest something school-related, like the dress code, curfew, or other things that every high school student rants about, but one of his students suggested they protest SpaghettiGate2019.
Here is a look at the elements we produced to help push the narrative. By the way, produced is an exaggeration. I sent students out with a couple of copy points and let them go. Some of them were excited about it; others not so much.
As the day where spaghetti would be served again came close, the students began to worry about the end game. "How are we going to tell people it's spaghetti day?" Oh, my friends, it's easy! Now that we have buy-in from the entire school and they are all aware of it, we will pull them all in! We will record people celebrating the upcoming spaghetti day. We push it on social media all weekend (thanks hootsuite!) then we celebrate on Monday with some footage of students eating spaghetti. Actually, it was much better than planned. The timing was perfect. "Spaghetti Day" was actually after the colleges started their semester breaks! So I called a student who graduated last year and asked him to host a segment. He agreed, and this was the outcome.
Here's the catch. This was all a lesson in media conversation. As the process unfurled, I did some little things that no one noticed. Prior to SpaghettiGate, we did a daily trivia segment that we called knowledge is power. It was 30 seconds of our show with 15 seconds for the question and another 15 seconds later for the answer. When SpaghettiGate started, we stopped doing the segment. Not one person mentioned it outside of my classroom. I believe they only mentioned it because it was such a part of our graphics set up that they felt they had more time on their hands.
SpaghettiGate2019 ended on December 16th. The day was festive, people hugged in the hallways, and danced in the cafeteria… not really, but on the 17th, we aired the following segment during our show.
I felt it was very important that all students in the building know what SpaghettiGate really was. It was important for a lot of reasons. As we head into another political season, I wanted the students to understand that all media has an agenda. All media wants you to be scared, happy, sad, or just downright upset. That's what makes you come back each day to consume their products.
This, unfortunately, is not something you can do every year. I really wish I could find a way to make a fervor for something each semester so the students will understand the impact of the media they consume. Still, I don't think that's possible. As we head into what is going to be, in my opinion, one of the hottest political climates ever, think about how you can find ways to teach your students as well as all of the students in the school the impact of the media and how/what they consume dictates the message they hear.