Whether he’s teaching history to a roomful of teenagers or dancing on top of a minor league dugout as Tremor, an oversized lime-green dinosaur, Aaron Bishop has the same goal: Connecting with his audience or, in his words, “bringing it.”
It’s a role that seems tailor-made for the teacher from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. At 50, Bishop appears to have more energy than an entire class of teenagers, a trait he has been exhibiting in full-force in the classroom for the past 28 years, and as a mascot of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, minor league affiliate for the Los Angeles Dodgers, for 25 of them.
Bishop is tough to corral for an interview. But last week, between sessions at Rancho Cucamonga High School’s freshman orientation where he was acting as emcee, Bishop took some time to talk with Education Week. He reflected on the parallel goals of his two jobs, the detailed preparation that goes into each role, and why he continues to swelter in a full-body dinosaur costume almost nightly each summer as a minor league mascot.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
I was 21 when I started teaching. My first year, I thought, I’m going to teach this like a college class: You can sit where you want, eat what you want. But these kids are not college kids. I couldn’t reel ‘em back in. It was a disaster.
My wife teaches kindergarten. She went to PD [professional development] conferences. One was on classroom management, with techniques by [former educator] Harry Wong. He advises teachers to introduce students to a procedure for two weeks. My wife told me about it. So I said to myself: Ah, if I do something in my class like how to come in, how to sit down, these are the rules, every single day for two weeks, then students know they can’t just walk around whenever they want to. They know they have to raise their hand.
I also eventually realized that this is high school, and we have four years. And I have 52 minutes each class to keep these kids engaged. I can spend two minutes during that time doing something where they’re just connected. So I tell my students on the first day of school: Take your cool coats off. Leave them at the door. Because we’re all the same. We have to bring it.
And I connect with them. It’s easy with the honors kids. They’re going to do their work. You can say: Copy the dictionary, and they’ll copy the dictionary. It’s the kids who don’t have a connection, and who are like, this is the most boring thing—I have to get them connected. So I came up with some two-minute ways to engage them.
They all have to say ‘hello’ when they walk in.
On Mondays, we do a thing called Minute-to-Win-It Mondays. I pick two numbers randomly. I have two kids work together. I might have them do something like bounce ping pong balls into the trash can. I give them a Jolly Rancher if they win, there’s a score board between them and the other classes, so they like that. At the beginning of the year, kids are like, ‘I don’t want to do it.’ Then they start to ask: Are we going to do Minute-to-Win-It Mondays? So I know they want to be here on Mondays.
Wednesdays we do Wake Up Wednesday. Everyone has to stand up. We stretch, we do this clapping thing. At the beginning of the year, everyone’s like, ‘I’m too cool for this.’, ‘After the second week, they’re like, ‘Are we doing Wake Up Wednesday today?’
On Friday, we do Fun Food Friday. I might ask them: What’s the best movie food, romantic food, whatever. Kids might not know who signed the Declaration of Independence, but they will open up if you say something about food. Everybody can answer it.
And every single student gets a review question every single day. They have to answer something from the previous day’s lesson.
I’ve got to keep them engaged. They need to see that I have a connection with them. It makes them want to come in here.
It’s the same thing with my job as a mascot. Say I’m at the stadium on a Tuesday night. It’s hot, it’s miserable. But I have to connect with the audience. I have to somehow bring it to the best of my ability. I want someone in the stands to say, ‘Hey, I want to come back to the stadium.’ I have to make somebody’s day. I have to make somebody smile.
‘Mascoting’ is the greatest job in the world. You’ve just got to entertain. But you’ve got to be entertaining. I have to read the room, so to speak. I have three [almost adult] kids. They keep me in check. They’ll often say things like, ‘Dad, that didn’t work.’ I’m on stage at the baseball game. And I’m on stage at school.
Like in the classroom, I’ve learned to prepare differently as a mascot. I know if I’m not hydrated, I can’t perform. I sweat tons. I’ve lost 12 pounds in one game before.
When I was young, I could eat a couple of cheeseburgers on the way to my mascoting job, wash them down with a Coke. That’s completely changed. Today, I’ve already taken two electrolyte supplements. I’ll have a banana kale shake in the morning. Bleh. But if I were to have an Egg McMuffin, I could feel it all day. During the game, I’ll have cashews or carrots. It’s completely different than having French fries between innings. Afterwards, I eat mustard to avoid cramps. Our high school football coach has his players eat mustard when they get cramps; I learned that from him.
I’ve spent 25 [baseball] seasons as Tremor. I know other teachers with summer jobs, but not to the level of mascoting. I’ve always said that this is the best job. I’m at a baseball game. I get to entertain. And it’s worked out perfectly. My kids don’t want me to quit. Even grown, they like coming to the games.
I did want to quit about 15 years ago. But we needed to get an air conditioner. So I needed to keep doing it to pay for the AC. Then, we needed to get a kid through college. Now we’re getting a second kid through college. I have at least four more years [of being a mascot], to get all my kids through college.
People will say to me at the games, ‘Hey Bishop, is that still you?’ It’s the best kept secret that everybody knows.