It’s hot, it’s a little sticky, and it’s frankly pretty stuffy in that auditorium.
While most schools have already begun their summer vacations, the students in my art classes are practicing dialogue, dancing, singing, and working on being good audience members to one another despite the warm and stuffy conditions. The school runs on a trimester schedule and this trimester my students have been focused on music and theater. Since we are now in our final 2 weeks of school, it’s crunch time. Over the next 2 weeks we will be putting the finishing touches on our performances and presenting them to peers and parents. Even though we are in the midst of rehearsals, working out the kinks and collecting costumes I’m taking a moment to step back from the craziness and business to check in with myself.
Two years ago I had the privilege of enrolling in a program with an amazing dancer and educator who suggested that a dance lesson plan contain not just the dance objective but another objective, a kind of educator’s North Star. This second objective reflects something deeper or personal that you want your students to take away with them from the experience. It’s not likely to be an objective you share with the students (although you could) or an objective that you assess (although you may) but it will likely connect deeply with what fuels your passion for education and what drew you to the field of education in the first place. It’s likely an objective rooted in your deeply held beliefs and philosophy of education.
I believe that education done well develops our humanity.
Our world needs great thinkers, innovators, and problem solvers but we need those thinkers to be compassionate, empathetic people who are able to see the big picture and multiple sides of any issue. That is a big reason I am such a huge supporter of arts in education. Making art forces us to examine ourselves and face the core of our own humanity. Perceiving art has a way of touching us, affecting us and opening us to new ways of seeing things deepening our capacity to empathize.
But as I look at what I have been doing with my students the last few weeks I realize that I have lost sight of my North Star. I have gotten caught up in the business of rehearsal and the stress of performance, in the worry of being judged by colleagues and parents, especially as a new member of the staff, of meeting the expectations of others. I have gotten so concerned with the end product that I have forgotten why I believe children should be involved in the arts in the first place.
So, with precious few hours left to right my ship, I am checking in with my internal compass and finding that North Star.
I am going to articulate my deeper guiding objective and write it down so that, before I begin the next rehearsal or before I give that final pre-performance pep talk, I can read it over and be mindful of it as I guide my students toward the destination. I will keep that North Star handy so that I can glance down in the midst of a busy rehearsal and remind myself why I am doing what I am doing.
By stopping now and then to check my course against my North Star, I can proceed confident that I am headed in the right direction. And, when our journey is over, I will know I did my best to get everyone safely to my intended destination. However, before my next journey, I will try to remember to keep that internal compass handy from the very start until the very end and keep my eye on that North Star so I never get too far off course again.
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.