However, that’s not even close to the craziest thing Northern Utah educators have done lately to congratulate their students for achieving academic goals or raising money for charity.
Clearfield High School teacher LeNina Wimmer kissed a pig. The school’s principal wore a prom dress for an entire day. Clinton Elementary School administrators were even made into human ice cream sundaes.
Poll said the trend of teachers embarrassing themselves to reward his school’s kids started with Principal Richard Swanson. About a decade ago, he let students pay to put their teachers in cages or tape them to walls. Now, the students come up with their own rewards every year.
“Things that embarrass teachers or administrators seem to work best,” he said.
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Weber State University marketing professor Clinton Amos, who studies consumer behavior, said giving students an off-the-wall reward works well because people constantly seek stimulation — something the novelty of a getting to pie a teacher in the face provides.
Novelty paired with the bandwagon effect can draw large groups of people to a cause, he said. Amos pointed to the popular Ice Bucket Challenge as an example. To raise awareness for Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 2014, thousands of people posted social media videos of ice buckets being dumped on their heads.
"Once we see people doing other things like us, it becomes more desirable,” he said.
Amos said the student-teacher relationship probably contributes to the trend as well.
"I think there can be an element of, ‘I have a chance to get back at my teacher for giving me so much homework,’ or whatever it is," he said, laughing.
Sometimes the antics reward good behavior or academic accomplishments, while other times they’re used to encourage fundraising efforts.
For example, Sunset Junior High raised $8,200 in Christmas money for 37 families in need, Poll said.
Because of students’ fundraising success, one teacher will dress up like a clown and a group of administrators will play Jimmy Fallon’s “is it a raw or hard-boiled egg?” Russian roulette game. On top of that, the entire science department — including one woman — agreed to shave their heads. One particularly hairy teacher will have his arms waxed.
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As part of a recent Layton High School fundraiser, students paid to Duck Tape their teachers to a wall. They ended up gathering $20,000 for refugees and immigrants at the Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center.
Mount Ogden Junior High School has also gotten in on the fun. Students have already jumped into the Ogden River as part of a Christmas fundraiser for students in need, but if they raise $10,500, the Ogden Scene says teachers will to do funny dances or sleep on the roof.
And as of Wednesday morning, Clearfield High School had raised about $30,000 of their $45,000 goal for Davis Education Foundation Child Spree. At an assembly to celebrate the fundraiser’s end and raise even more money, students brought desserts to pie teachers in the face with.
The school’s educators also put on dance routines and attempted to break the world record for most marshmallows consumed in 60 seconds to reward kids for their efforts.
In the end, the school raised a total of $58,000.
Clearfield High Student Body President Tomoya Averett, a senior, said the incentives make students want to do more. As a member of the softball team, she was particularly excited about pieing the baseball coach in the face.
“We love helping our community and helping families, but getting to do something outside of the normal as a reward is just the icing on the cake,” Averett said.
Splat!!!! pic.twitter.com/IoFyKfEhEz— Anna Burleson (@AnnagatorB) December 21, 2016
Wimmer said she’s not sure how the tradition of teachers doing crazy stunts as rewards got started, but knows it goes back at least six years. At that point her daughter was a sixth-grader at Holt Elementary, and her principal, John Zurbuchen, spent a night on the school’s roof because kids passed their reading goal.
“Kids love to see their teachers embarrass themselves,” Wimmer said.
Zurbuchen remembers the ordeal clearly. He’d been transferred to the district office in January of that year, but came back in May to sleep on the roof. He even tossed candy to the students below and read books through a megaphone during recess.
“The kids love to make fools of the adults they’re with, you know, and truth is, adults and teachers love doing it because its a neat little bonding experience,” he said.