Today, two more Prelude Programs came to an end as the 3rd graders at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy performed their original plays. One, The Witch Strikes Again, was a fairytale complete with knights in shining armor, kings, witches, wizards and dragons. The other, The Family Quilt, was a work of historical fiction exploring the effects of slavery on a family and their attempted escape on the Underground Railroad. Both classes faced some pretty unfavorable conditions during this process, and we were only able to work for 8 weeks instead of the ten weeks that Prelude normally takes. Today, however, they were wonderful. Like every class, we had absences and last minute role replacements, and most everyone rose to the occasion.
What stuck me most about this performance was the number of parents, family, and community representatives that were there to cheer on the kids. Never say that OTR doesn't love its children! The audience cheered and clapped and the love and support in the room was truly powerful.
After the performances, several parents and teachers thanked me for bringing ETC to their kids and for giving them a chance to let out their creativity and excitement. I ran into a substitute teacher that I had worked with for some time at Schiel Primary School who recognized me and came to see the plays. One of the speech teachers told me how proud she was of a student who had been on stage. He had faced a major fear to be a part of the play, but had beamed with pride when he was done.
Let me tell you, these kids are just as sweet, loving, smart, and creative as anyone else, but their experiences are quite limited, making it difficult for them to put into words what they want at times. Frustration at such an inability to articulate one's thoughts and feelings is what leads to many discipline problems with kids – they just 'act out.' This fact just makes it even more vital that they have this experience with a creative process. Being creative wasn't a problem for these kids, but they weren't as adept at grasping how we could practically make those ideas come to life on stage. They were fascinated by their props and costumes today and spend a few minutes trying to determine how everything was made. At the end, they were incredibly proud.
After the performances, I was packing up and one of the girls came running up to me. She'd been wearing a button under her costume all morning, but I hadn't really gotten a good look at it. "Ms. Amy, this is for you!" she said, handing me the home-made button. Carefully written in crayon were the words: Believe in Yourself.
Today's plays also marked a personal milestone for me: I have now written 20 plays with and for children in the last 5 years.
Who would have believed it?
Happy Last Day of School everyone!