Organizing a ‘Flashmob’ at University

It’s over! Done. Finally! We had our first ‘flashmob’ at Uni Before you complain ‘it’s not a real flashmob’ let me tell you this: Most people here had no idea what a flashmob was and tried to make it into a ‘show’. So we had to work very hard on explaining the surprise factor and that we couldn’t advertise with that thing to happen. Moreover I don’t want to talk about the flashmob itself but about how this project came to life and how I tried to handle it or, to be more precise, let students handle it.

So what was the idea?
Creating a Flashmob experience. Our target was an on-campus event. The opening ceremony of an art exhibition. Why on campus? ‘Cause everything needs to be planned in Thailand and if we would have gone somewhere outside right away our own Uni would have probably killed us – they needed to see what we are able to do first.

Planning & Organizing
It was an inter-faculty thing. We worked together with students and teachers from other faculties so I had to do a lot of organization with those faculties, creating an overall plan with when, where, how, who, what, etc. But for the actual ‘event’ I decided to let students do most stuff on their own. While I had lots of ideas in my mind I figured students would spend a lot of time practicing all those things so they should be able to decide a lot themselves – only if they couldn’t come up with a decent idea I more or less ‘forced’ an idea on them (hello, ‘Pretender’ group 😉 ).

One of my students took on the part as the ‘Project Manager’ or ‘Event Planner’. She organized different training groups, contacted further students to help out with dancing or singing, etc.
Another student then took on the part as ‘coach’ and taught lots of singing and dancing to the different performers. I was super happy that we had those two roles covered which made it even easier for me to ‘let things go their own way’.

Did it work out?
Well. We had fun and the audience liked it. So you could say it was a success. However it could have been ‘easier’ or better prepared since everything just worked out last minute but hey…that’s part of the game. Now I asked my students for feedback and I can’t wait to read it. I already expect something like ‘Ajarn (that’s me) could have provided more guidance or more straight forward decisions’ or similar things. At least I hope they’ll be honest in their feedback. I admit, if I would have acted more as a ‘teacher’ than just the organizer in the background and would have told them more directly what they would have to do, it would have been easier. However I decided not to do so for a very good reason:

Usually everything I do at Uni has more than just the obvious reason. If you read this blog or some of my articles before you know that I am a huge fan of ‘head-fake learning'(learning something about matter B, while studying or doing matter A). Hence I always try to make students learn or practice more than just the obvious. The obvious in this case was the performance. The not so obvious: Working as a team, project management, negotiating, managing setbacks, etc.

There were quite of few of those things mentioned above. Setbacks, negotiations, anger, frustration…but eventually they all managed to stick together and to create a great event with lots of diversity. One of the students told me yesterday ‘Ajarn, I didn’t really realize HOW BIG the whole thing would be until I finally saw it – that shows that the work everyone put into that project was quite impressive. And while quite a few students lost motivation and dropped out after the first few meetings the ones that stayed showed a lot of dedication and hopefully learned a lot – not only how to dance like LMFAO.

Some of the students that had been put into charge of certain groups seemed to be shy but then later on learned that always being shy and ‘toooo nice’ isn’t really helping when you need to get things done and that ‘discussing everything’ isn’t very helpful as well. However we also saw that ‘simply telling people what to do’ doesn’t work also since everybody likes to know why to do things and likes to have say in what he or she does. Finding the right balance is important and I’m glad they all found out how to find that balance eventually.

A funny note: There is a Breakdance group here at Uni. They practice after class and are quite good. So our project manager thought it would be nice if they would help us with the dance performance. They agreed to help us ‘for free’ if we….would help them with their English homework. So one of our students who’s quite good in English spent lots of her free time helping those B-Boys with their English homework to make them help us with dance practice. I didn’t know that from the beginning and just happened to know it afterwards. I would have never been able to say ‘that’s ok’ from a teacher perspective but I do appreciate the dedication of our team member. She really spent a lot of time for that to make it happen. That’s pretty cool – personally speaking. The teacher of course says: The boys have to do the homework by themselves, otherwise they’ll never improve their English skills! However with our student helping them I’m sure they also learned something! 🙂

Bottom Line:
I’m super happy with how everything turned out. I think the event was cool, students learned a lot and matured while doing so. If we ever do something like this again it will probably be faster, easier and with less setbacks.

Thanks to everyone who joined and didn’t give up. You’re great!

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