This is my favorite time of the year. Auditions for the big winter musical are this week. It's stressful in some ways and a lot of work. In fact, for me, getting ready for auditions might be as demanding (or more) than the week of the performances, both emotionally as well as physically.
Still, in spite of that, I love this time, and here's why: right now somewhere around 70 kids in 5th through 8th graders are signed up to audition for the play. In a few more weeks, another 80 or so kids in grades 1-4 will audition. Every morning and afternoon, they are in my classroom checking the sign-up sheet, asking for tips or suggestions, working out problems and so forth. It's fun to have them stop by, and fun to see the wheels in their minds turning so hard.
They are busy learning songs and lines, and devoting all their considerable intelligence and energy to giving their part that extra bit of polish and shine so they'll be called back. All of that energy and excitement is almost tangible, and the school is crackling with it right now.
People wonder sometimes why I like teaching middle school so much, and this is one of the reasons. They are still young enough to be excited, and not be ashamed to admit it. Or to admit that they are nervous. Unlike older adolescents, they haven't quite figured out about masking their genuine emotions, and when they are excited, there's nothing like it.
I love the creativity and effort they spend preparing. One student is shy, so she and her friend worked out a duet and spent hours coming up with choreography. Another didn't want to sing a song, so she read a dramatic part from a book she's been reading. Others have spent literally weeks memorizing and polishing and practicing in the mirror so that every gesture is perfect.
This kind of hard work and creativity makes me proud and happy.
But most of all, auditions are exciting because, like any new beginning, the possibilities are endless. Instead of confronting difficult realities, everyone can dream a little and imagine how wonderful it would be to get that one really great part, and how fun it would be if their best friend was right up there with them and so on.
The great thing is that I don't have any idea who will end up getting what parts. I learned long ago that I can't predict this with any degree of accuracy, so I don't even try anymore. I just enjoy the ride and embrace the fact that there will be wonderful surprises.
Unlimited possibilities are not something we get a whole lot of in life. Most of us spend our time and energy balancing the ideal with the real, what we hoped for with what is possible. We learn to accept limitations and (hopefully) live happy lives.
This weekend, when the cast list is posted, it will be time to accept disappointment gracefully and start enjoying what we have instead of what we may have wanted.
But in world where our choices are so often circumscribed by cold realities, the warm sunlight of unlimited, unbounded possibilities is a wonderful place to be for a little while.
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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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