Saturday, March 5, 2016

Friday Night Lights

Something is amiss. I have a relentless tickly chest cough and the back of my neck aches. I have a feeling this is going to put a serious dent in my weekend. Before I succumb completely, a few thoughts.

My daughter and I saw the musical at River Hill High School last night. I didn't take the time to count but it is amazing how many students are involved in an effort like this. It isn't merely about a few "talented" kids who get the lead roles. Mounting a school musical is a long, complex, and arduous endeavor, and it involves ensemble and bit players just as much as the "stars".

And for every sight and sound onstage there are set builders, prop people, lighting and sound technicians, stage crew, orchestra pit musicians, ushers and box office staff, makeup and costume people offstage. In a school this means students learning from and working with teachers who are often donating their time in their areas of expertise.

Before words like "engagement" and "grit" or "rigor" were Ed Reform buzzwords, Arts Education was providing the real thing without need for testing or metrics. Students learn about working together towards a shared goal. They feel pride in their work, enjoy camaraderie as they work together. Adolescents were not made to sit at a desk all day and be receptacles for efficiently delivered content. They need to move, to feel, to care. They need to stretch themselves, take risks, build relationships, try new things.

As much as I champion Arts Education, I want to be clear that there are other ways that provide equally valuable experiences for students: sports, robotics, service organizations like Best Buddies, to name a few. Outside of school young people get involved with animal care, environmental projects, entrepreneurial ventures, political activism. Adolescence is a time when our kids are open to finding a passion and pursuing it. It is a great time to latch onto an "apprenticeship" of sorts: going deep.

Being good at sitting at a desk for long periods of time is not a predictor of anything we want for our kids in the long term. Being compliant receptacles for efficiently delivered content may (possibly) improve test scores but it does little to nothing in preparing human beings for success in life. "Educating the whole child" used to be something we valued and we've been on a dangerous path for far too long. Students are not just brains to be serviced by technicians, provided with bodies merely to get them from classroom to classroom and desk to desk. The best education acknowledges the fullness of human experience.

It's musical season in area high schools. Catch one (or more) if you can. When you see joy, focus, attention, energy, excitement, teamwork, and mastery--you're seeing education at its best.


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