The Starbucks Telephone Game

Remember telephone? The game where one person whispers something to someone and then that person whispers what they heard to the person next to them? In the end, the phrase becomes so distorted because each person is repeating only what they heard, not the original phrase.

That game gave me an idea the first time a barista at Starbucks wrote my name wrong on a cup. Now, my name “Erin” could have a variety of spellings and I actually like to see what kinds of creative variations will appear. However, one day someone wrote this:


I’ve never heard that name before. I was so fascinated I didn’t know whether to write a novel about someone with the name of Aris or change my name to Aris. Instead, I decided to create a little variation of the game of telephone so that whatever name the barista wrote on the cup last I will say next time and see how long it takes to get back to my actual correct name. Here’s a few highlights of the journey:




I’m a little bit stuck with Kara, since it’s easy to say and to write, but I’m sure eventually it will get changed up. Game on.


I am going to ignore the fact that many months have past and it is now 2014. Moving on. I would like to talk instead about my Ukelele.


Over the summer I made a “2013-2014 bucket list”–essentially a to-do list to maintain my sanity during the school. One such item was learn the ukelele. Technically I had already started the process over the summer when I bought my uke, but teaching myself during the fall became my afterwork pick-me-up. Practicing the ukelele marked a clean transition from teaching mode to the rest of my life. 

As my skill improved and I grew more and more comfortable, the idea of one day bringing it to school started to flicker in my mind. Teaching at a private Christian school, I start each class reading a scripture and praying. I brought up the idea to my 11th grade class one day that if they ever wanted to sing a hymn at our start of class I could do bring the ukelele in. The response seemed reluctant, but the next day when I came in sans uke, there were several inquiries: “Wait–I thought we were going to sing today?”

So the next day I came to class prepared with instrument and music and taught them a favorite hymn of mine, “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” I invited several students to the front who I knew were vocalists and we began singing. A verse in, and another student grabbed the bell off my desk and added a makeshift percussion section, accenting the beats with the bell. And slowly the whole class found their collective voice and made a sweet chorus together. Other classes got wind of the singing and began to ask when I would sing with their class. With the exception of an 8th grade class I teach all upperclassmen, and I was pleasantly surprised by this interest in singing together during English class. 

Finals week approached and we had scheduled five days of finals review before exams and then Christmas break. I determined that every day of finals review we would sing a different Christmas carol. Some classes were more enthusiastic than others but they all came around and by the last verse I would hear less of my own voice and the sweet sound of my student’s collective voices. I took a poll the last day what carol they wanted to sing and Jingle Bells overwhelmingly was the dominant choice. 

That evening at the I saw some actual jingle bells on clearance at the store and picked it up. The next day the bells went over well, but none so well as my biggest class, on of my AP sections. They sang so well I made the comment, “I’m pretty tempted to take this show on the road….” To which they responded overwhelmingly begging me to let them go caroling. And how could I say no? As we were gathering ourselves together, several of them broke out the box in the closet from my middle school teaching days. Can we wear these hats? Absolutely. Can we take foam swords? Why not? And so we burst forth into the school, me on uke several students on jingle bells, some in a variety of costume hats, some wielding swords and all singing heartily. Teachers peeped out from classrooms, some joining in. We paraded down the middle school hallway, down to the school office and back to the classroom. 

Finals review inevitably had to be finished. Finals had to be taken. (And also graded…about that….) However, I will treasure our final festive hurrah. And I look forward to seeing what role the ukelele will play in the spring semester.