The room is warm; excitement and the odour of nervous middle schoolers fills the air. Students, wearing a mix of everyday clothing and fairy-tale wear, run back and forth in frantic frenzy between their parents, their classmates, and backstage, to make sure everything is “just right” and in place for their moment on the stage.  

I am sitting in the back row, quietly chuckling at the shenanigans while trying to be inconspicuous and hoping not to be noticed.

I am armed.

Armed with rubrics…all pre-named and in order of appearance, with highlighters to match the rainbow spectrum, a clipboard to sturdy my work, and pencils with unused erasers ready to engage at any moment.

I intentionally place much of this on the seat beside me so that I have space, mostly because I don’t want to distract the poor person beside me with my fast and furious markings. Even more so because I don’t want anyone questioning why I might be highlighting a section when perhaps they were not in agreement with my designation.

Glaring with Excitement

Enviously, I glance over at all the parents who have come to just watch and enjoy. My glance may even have come across as a glare, because as excited as I am to watch and celebrate the growth of my students over the past three weeks, I do not want to engage in the task that was staring back at me from my lap.

Up until this moment, students have been working for three weeks to prepare for this one-time event. They were super hyped to show off their work to their larger school community. I have seen each act repeatedly and in varying stages of readiness. I could probably even fill in and play, with slight improvisation, each role if need be. 

But tonight was about THE moment of presentation, which would need to be the focus of my assessment rubric.

The Big moment

With the first act, I picked up my clipboard and grabbed my highlighters.

Hmmm…BEAT and TIMING, does this student, enter the action at the appropriate time (which is a 3 “meets expectations” by the way), or do they pause for dramatic effect at appropriate times, and interject on cue (which is a 4, for “exceeding expectations” in case you wanted to know).

My highlighter wavers between the 3 and the 4, finally settling on a 3 because he/she could have paused more dramatically before saying their next line. 

Next category, SPEAKING. Does the actor meet expectations in projecting well and using expression in their voice to show the mood of the character, or does the actor develop the character effectively through emphasized and well –heard expressive speech that enhances the storyline? Again, my highlighter wavers between the 3 (meets) and the 4 (exceeds), finally settling on the 4.

Thriving in their own way

At this point, I want to throw my highlighters away. 

Why? Because every single one of these students stepped out of their own box and achieved. For some students just standing on stage is an accomplishment; for others, being on stage is a natural gifting. For a couple students, the sheer terror of forgetting a line in public is nightmarish. I am proud of each one of these unique learning journeys. None of them were the same.

To give them a grade for this seems cheap. The journey of learning and overcoming fears was so much richer.

I just wanted to applaud, offer a standing ovation and celebrate that each student thrived in their own way.