Okay, full disclosure: to be perfectly honest, there are times when my students are unruly and squirrely and make me want to pull my hair out, slit my wrists, or become a bagger at Kroger. Not many times, but they do exist. I say that simply to balance out the glowing, gushing post that follows.
A few weeks back, I wrote a post about things that make my soul sing. As I work to become a more grateful, loving person, I'm trying to make it a point to more frequently savor and enjoy the good things about my life, so I wanted to post some more of the things that bring me such joy that my soul begins to sing. On Friday, I left work feeling this way, feeling happy and satisfied because of my students.
These quirky, wonderful little people are straddling the two worlds of childhood and adulthood. Even the oldest among them is little more than a very large child, while even the youngest are inexorably hurtling to maturity. I think it is the confluence of youth and maturity that I enjoy so much about adolescents. They are young enough to be rather sweet still, innocent, even, but they are old enough to be able to do sophisticated work, to have well-developed senses of humor and so on.
Friday, my 8th grade chorus sang "Winter Wonderland" with precise, rich harmonies and attention to dynamic detail that was simply beautiful by any standard. I've been working with them since they were in 6th grade, and so hearing them sing like that is a triumph on many levels. We then worked on "Do You Hear What I Hear?"--a challenging piece for their age. In spite of the challenges, I had chills a number of times and got teary once. In fact, I had to turn and pretend to write something on the board as I don't want them to know they can wring tears out of my stern heart of stone. They sang like young adults and it was magnificent.
They did so well that I let them have the last few minutes of class to go outside and run around on the playground. There were two other classes out there as well--a 1st and a 2nd grade class, but I wasn't worried even a bit about my kids behaving appropriately.
I watched my students in the golden light of a crisp fall afternoon, playing kickball and spinning in circles and playing tag and four-square. They ran and kicked and laughed--the childlike sides of their current developmental states becoming dominant at that moment. I hope I am never so old or dour that I cannot be moved to great joy when watching children run and play in the sunshine.
After school, we had play practice and as I put my 11-13 year old actors through their paces, I marveled at them again. I am blessed with wonderful students, and so I have the luxury of being able to be a little relaxed with them--we work hard, but we can have fun as well. I love their senses of humor. They are old enough to get irony and dry humor, but not too cool to be ashamed of laughing unabashedly, or thinking something's funny. They like to be teased at this age, and will frequently tease me back--sometimes coming up with something really witty and clever.
I basked in how hard they worked to get this play ready. Fiddler on the Roof is not an easy play, especially for kids of this age. But they are such good sports and such good workers--it makes me happy and proud to watch them. They are also growing to the point that they can do some extraordinary choreography, sing demanding passages, and really, and truly act.
They are sweet kids, smart kids, funny kids. Yes, they talk too much and sometimes they make me think that a monastery in Tibet sounds like a good idea. But the warmth and energy they bring to my life, their laughter and sincere affection, along with the quality of their work--these things make my soul sing, and make my spirit swell with gratitude to be around them. When they do good work, when I see them mature and grow, when they come back to see me years later, or, as in the case of one sweet student yesterday, very sincerely invite me to show up to a birthday party (I thought it best to decline, but still, it was a nice thought!)--well, then sings my soul!
So, two weeks from today is opening night for our fall production, "Fiddler on the Roof." In case you have noticed, this is why I have not been to your blogs lately. The run-up to the play is crazy, and while I have an incredible group of devoted parents who help with everything you can imagine, there is still a fair amount of critical stuff that simply can't be delegated.
The place in the rehearsal process where we currently find ourselves is one of my favorites. Scenery is starting to appear and every night a little more of it is painted, so each morning brings a magical glimpse of what is to come. Costume racks are starting to fill. We're moving from rehearsing in small sections to running through the whole play, so I'm beginning to see glimpses of what could be.
Everything about the play is very much in the process of becoming. The entire production is pliable and flexible right now. Depending on the choices the young performers make in the next week or two, the play will either be successful, or not so much. I am fast approaching the point where the only thing I can really do is offer advice and be a cheerleader.
Perhaps, the best way to describe where we are at right now is that everything is still possible. The set, the costumes, the performances, the choreography, is all still a possibility. Choices can still make a difference. And yet, we are starting to see enough to be able envision what some of those possibilities are. It's terribly exciting to me.
You might say that the play is currently in its adolescence--the physical form is beginning to take shape, and one can see glimmers of where it is headed. At the same time, there is still a great deal that can happen--much that can change, for good or bad. The play reminds me of the kids I teach and direct--and of my own spirit.
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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