Sarah Horner, Pioneer Press, April 27, 2014 – Few students can say they’ve seen their teacher “harness the wind.”
For those unfamiliar with the technique, picture lots of frenzied arm movements, sort of like ribbon dancing at a gymnastics meet, but without the ribbon.
Or go to YouTube and type in “Turtle Lake Elementary” and watch a video of six Mounds View school district teachers bringing the rare art form to life.
It’s one of several overly dramatic, quirky moves worked into the teachers’ clever parody of “Let It Go,” the song sensation from Disney’s movie “Frozen” that has feverishly swept the child nation.
The group of fifth-grade teachers capitalized on the popular tune to hammer home an important message about student anxiety as testing season continues across the state.
“Let it go, let it go, I will let my knowledge show,” the teachers belt out in the video. “Let it go, let it go, I will show how much I’ve grown.”
The group, which created the video in less than a week, wrote lyrics for the entire four-minute song and filmed it as a secret surprise for their students April 1 — two weeks before Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments began statewide.
“Kids internalize pressure from various sources about what these tests mean, and it’s just a long time to sit and focus. And they happen pretty regularly, so, unfortunately, they really can cause stress,” said Michelle Morse, one of the teachers involved. “We just wanted to remind our students that they are ready for this and they don’t have to stress and that it’s just one snapshot in time, and they’ve already grown anyway.”
The response has been overwhelming, Morse said, both inside Turtle Lake Elementary and around the world. The video, posted on YouTube and Vimeo, has garnered nearly 250,000 views and hundreds of comments.
“These teachers deserve an award,” one commenter wrote.
“What a triumphant rendition. … your love and dedication to your students is an inspiration,” wrote another.
“We really just did it for our students …. But to see how it’s impacted the larger community has really been exciting,” said Melissa Lang, the teacher who came up the idea. “We’ve had teachers and principals all over the world telling us the message we created fits with what they are trying to teach their kids, too.”
The message, by the way, appears to be working.
All the students interviewed for the story at Turtle Lake Elementary said they felt a lot less pressure heading into testing this year, including fifth-grader Gracyn Delaune.
“It sticks in your head so when you were taking the test, it wasn’t that bad because you remembered the words about double checking and finding my evidence and taking my time,” Gracyn said. “It made me calmer.”
Sara Cocciarella, 10, said she’s watched it “about 100 times.”
“I get really nervous taking tests, just thinking I’m not going to do good and it will be really hard, but this actually helped,” she said.
Teachers are hearing the same from students throughout the building, said Nancy Boyer-Kellerman, another teacher featured in the video.
Boyer-Kellerman said fifth-graders alone spend about 13 hours in a little over a month’s time testing.
“You know, it’s funny because we did it just for our kids, but I think it’s also calmed us down; I think it’s calmed the parents down. It’s had this great ripple effect that has kind of just made everybody feel OK about it,” Boyer-Kellerman said.