Feighan: 100 days school events break up winter blahs

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

The 100th day of the school year was so insignificant in the 1980s and ’90s that the majority of kids didn’t even know when it happened.

We celebrated it exactly the same way we marked 99 days or 101. We arrived at school, trudged to class, ate bad pizza, had recess, went home and returned the next day to do it all again.

But something happened about a decade ago. At many local elementary schools, suddenly, the 100th day of the school year became kind of a big deal.

Across Metro Detroit, many schools this month held assemblies, created special 100-day lesson plans and encouraged young students to dress up like 100-year-olds. My 6-year-old insisted he needed white hair and makeup to create wrinkles. He even wore a top hat he said made him look like Ebenezer Scrooge.

The fuss around the 100-day mark isn’t for nothing. Educators say it’s a great opportunity to practice counting. Students often bring in 100 items of something — cotton balls, beads, you name it.

But at a time when parents are already struggling to juggle work, home life and everything in between, do we need a made-up event? Should we make a big deal out of nothing?

Zero the Hero would argue “yes.”

At my son’s school, Zero the Hero — or whatever lucky staff member or parent who has been asked to whip up a costume and talk about how awesome zeros are — swoops in from the Planet Zero on the 100th day to practice counting and get students excited about the power of zero.

It turns out Zero is a lot closer to Metro Detroit than I thought. A teacher asked my husband to be Zero the Hero this year. Not known for his shyness and always ready to dress up like a superhero for a good cause — he was the Flash at this year’s Fun Run — he said yes.

But Zero the Hero needed a sidekick with sewing skills. Suddenly, my husband and I were basically living on the Planet Zero. We talked costumes, wigs and scripts. You know you’ve evolved as a couple when your weekend date night consists of going to JoAnn Fabrics and getting home by 10 p.m. to work on a costume.

In the dull, gray days of January and February, the truth is we needed a little Zero the Hero magic. When one cold winter day stretches into another, the 100th day provided a welcome break from the monotony of our every day routine — not just for my son and his classmates, but us.

On Monday, the entire school gathered in the gym, some wearing 100-day hats, others dressed as centenarians with suspenders and glasses. Nearby in the office, my husband huddled in a storage closet so students wouldn’t see him in costume.

“Should I hide, too?” I asked, wary of ruining the surprise.

My husband frowned.

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to be alone. I’m getting in the zone,” he said.

And then suddenly, there he was. Zero the Hero swooped into the school gym, his yellow cape covered in zeros flowing behind him. Students chanted and cheered as Zero talked about how significant zeros are. My son beamed with pride.

Shortly before the end of the assembly, a little girl called out.

“Zero!” she shouted. “You’re amazing!”

Amazing indeed. Who knew that something that equals nothing — zero — could mean so much.


Twitter: @mfeighan