Ten weeks ago, I, along with three other moms, volunteered to direct and produce the 4th grade play at Number 5’s school.
We did this not because that’s how it’s always happened, but because this was the first year in as many years as we could remember that there was not going to be a fourth grade play because there was no teacher who was able to direct it..
In all honesty, initially I did this for one reason only.
For four years, from the time she saw her older brother as Aladdin when he was in the 4th grade play, Number 4 has looked forward to being a part of the play when she finally got to 4th grade.
As the oldest grade in the school, this is a rite of passage.
It’s like the senior skip day of elementary school.
Maybe that’s not the best analogy, but all the fourth graders know there will be a 4th grade play. Every year. Without fail.
It’s one of the perks of being in 4th grade.
Everyone is allowed to audition, and everyone who auditions gets a part.
And for kids who don’t want to be in the actual performance, they can be part of the crew.
So when it looked like it wasn’t going to happen this year, well…
That just wasn’t going to fly with many of the parents.
The rumblings started around January in the school’s Facebook group.
Has anyone heard anything about the play?
What’s going on with the 4th grade play?
Do we know when auditions are for the 4th grade play?
IS IT TRUE THAT THERE ISN’T GOING TO BE A PLAY THIS YEAR???
This whole process usually begins in the late fall, with the year’s play chosen and auditions happening sometime in December before Christmas break.
This year, in November there were… crickets.
In December there were crickets. Nothing.
Then came the questions followed by the disappointment and then the near outrage.
But with no teachers able to take on the play this year, there was no one to do it.
Well, there were no teachers to do it.
But there were parents.
And we did it.
AND IT WAS AWESOME.
Of course, as one of the directors, I am biased.
But I can assure you that we put on a kick ass production with only ten weeks at our disposal. Two of those were comprised of auditions. One was spring break.
So we had seven weeks of rehearsals to work with.
And if I learned one thing in the past ten weeks, it’s this:
MOMS GET SHIT DONE.
When a group of mothers come together with a common goal, there is literally nothing they cannot do.
But that is the topic for its own blog post which is coming soon.
Before I get to that, I want to go back to what I said earlier.
I initially volunteered to devote ten weeks of my life to this undertaking for one reason, and one reason only.
It wasn’t about the other kids or the whole grade.
If I’m going to be honest, it was seriously just about her.
I mean, yeah, I wanted the whole grade to have the opportunity.
But I was not going to allow Number 5 in particular to be robbed of the privilege of the 4th grade play.
I was going to give her this opportunity. This experience.
And what I discovered over the course of the past ten weeks is that being a part of the 4th grade play shouldn’t be a gift.
It should be a given.
It should be a fundamental experience.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that it should be a requirement.
I never truly understood what kids learned and experienced and took away from being a part of the 4th grade play until I was an integral part of it.
It is so much more than a play.
It is so much more than a moment for my child to shine.
It is a metaphor for life.
It is a whole brain and body learning experience.
And it is the only time in my kids’ entire elementary school career where the entire grade has the opportunity to belong to the same community where they are working together toward a common goal.
It is the only occasion in their entire public school education where all the kids in the same grade can share a common connection. Beside the obvious human connection.
And that is what we all want most.
So there is that.
Which is, um…. HUGE.
Then there is the opportunity for practicing being vulnerable and out of your comfort zone.
And I’m not talking about being onstage for the performance.
I mean, yeah, that is a big out-of-your-comfort-zone opportunity.
But I’m talking about way before that.
About deciding to even audition. To put yourself out there doing something that is open to judgment in front of your peers (who can be the most brutal audience of all) and in front of adults you don’t know.
That is fucking scary, and it takes a big set of balls to do that.
If there was ever an opportunity for your kids to grow emotionally, THIS IS IT.
Whether they are memorizing lines, singing in front of people, learning choreography, whether they are part of the cast or part of the stage crew, this is an opportunity to put math, music, reading, movement and communication applications to use in challenging, fun, real-life situations.
A school play, and in particular, a school musical allows kids from all walks of life to come together on an even playing field. It allows the kids who aren’t the athletes or the scholars or the musicians to have a moment to shine.
A school play allows teachers to see their students in a whole different light. Especially those students who might be extra energetic, extra uninhibited, extra talkative, and extra challenging in the classroom.
A school play affords kids the opportunity to learn in ways they are not able to inside the confines of a classroom.
A school play helps to reach the kids on the periphery, bring them into the inner circle, and then unite everyone.
Music and movement and singing and the joy that accompanies them are not extras.
They are vital cogs in the wheel of personal development.
That was made crystal clear to me this weekend, when four moms who volunteered to produce and direct the play, and fifty plus additional moms (and four dads!) who volunteered in different capacities watched about one hundred kids come together to put on, as one grandfather said, “The best kids’ production I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot.”
My daughter will never forget being a part of this year’s 4th grade play.
And I think it’s safe to say, neither will any of the other kids who were a part of it.
That is an education she will carry with her for the rest of her life.
I can say with 100% certainty that it is one of the most applicable, enriching, rewarding, and unifying experiences she and all of her peers will receive in all their years of public education.
The school musical didn’t just unite the kids.
It didn’t just unite the 4th grade community.
It united the entire school.
Teachers, administrators, first graders, second graders, third graders, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers…
It was really quite remarkable.
And also a big, glaring, neon sign reminder that the formation of a child into a productive, responsible and compassionate human being is so much more than achievement. More than test grades. More than advanced placement and AP classes and grade point averages.
It is about the development of the whole entire child through multiple disciplines and approaches and through strong connections with other human beings.
And now the fourth grade play, for me, is no longer about just my kid.
It’s about all of them.