Feathers floated through the air; strands of wig hair lay scattered on the ground. Kids were running around in circles practising a classmate’s fish swim move, and the one counter space left in my classroom had become an apparent make-up station.
My classroom resembled anything but a learning environment.
“Mrs. Barthel, I can’t find my mask!”
“Mrs. Barthel, I can’t find one of my groupmates! They must be sick! Who can play their part?”
“Mrs. Barthel, we lost our backstage script! Do you have another one we can use?”
It’s five minutes to show time. I’m still bobby-pinning fish ears into a student’s hair.
Where was the missing student? I was sure I saw him earlier.
Missing fish in tow, a quick bobby pin of fish ears, a quick, “holla,” to get the kids lined up in order of play and we are “on.” Weeks of preparation, rehearsal, critique and revision, prop creation, and some chaos, all come down to this moment of presentation.
Show time everyone!
We have 45 minutes to present what we have spent countless hours over the past weeks preparing. I can now sit back and relax and celebrate the learning of my students.
Getting Ready, Stage Left
I’ll be honest. It has been a journey.
Before Christmas, all my students wrote their own versions of a fractured fairy tale. Over the break, I read and marked them all and tried to imagine which could possibly be turned into full fairy tale production. Oh, the contemplation…I know the hopes, the intention, the hard work put into the creation of each of these, and it brought me back to the days of when I was a student, and how I felt when my work wasn’t chosen. I felt like I would be breaking hearts by announcing the scripts that would be turned into full production plays.
There was hand holding when I made the announcements, and then there were tears…of disappointment and joy for others. And then…there was the group making. Who plays in which play? I also quickly realized that I didn’t have enough students for the amount of parts that needed to be played. We were going to have to get creative.
And, creative my students got!
Giggles and Tears
But, on POL night, they got even MORE creative.
I laughed as I watched a student steal the show with some apparent newly found dance moves, and a mailman voice that helped set apart the three different characters he played during this fairy tale. It’s amazing what an audience brings out!
I giggled (and panicked a little) when another group started improvising during their play, not really sure where and how this was going to end up.
Tears of joy came to my eyes as I watched my student with special needs proudly rescue the main owl character in her play and then confidently say the main characters’ lines with her closing off the play.
I rejoiced as my three little fish maintained their knee–slap humour. The entire class sat in waiting for the Great Shark’s entrance. They knew she was really nervous about her entrance, her shark moves and sound effects. The class knew that if needed, they would provide the Jaws background music.
I looked at the eager faces waiting and I realized this evening was more than just a celebration and presentation of learning.
Preparing for this night brought an ownership, a collaboration, and a pride in my students to make each person’s play be the best it could be. It wasn’t just about their own play and presentation.
Whether they were on stage, helping switch sets, watching as an invested classmate and offering feedback for change and growth, these kids were invested in all these plays, not just their own.