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(This was adapted from my December 14th Cougar Chronicle blog post as Arts Director of The New School.)

About a month ago, Huck got ready to practice a particularly difficult sonatina on the piano and said to me, “Please don’t clap and say it was beautiful when I’m done.” I wasn’t sure how to respond to this strange request, so I just agreed and left the room, secretly tying a gag around my mouth.

As a parent (and teacher), sometimes the key to survival is knowing when to say nothing. I’m a pretty verbose person married to a very verbose person, and as expected, we created an extremely verbose person. We can over-analyze, over-criticize and over-praise like no one’s business. But Huck reminded me that sometimes my over-the-top expressions of his piano playing abilities create a certain pressure that he doesn’t always want or need. He later explained, “I know I’m making mistakes, but you still go crazy.” He’s not sure he can trust my feedback when it’s always exactly the same no matter what.

At schools I think of arts students and their many talents and abilities. They are learning skills as painters, singers, actors, designers, drummers, dancers, pianists and so much more. They’re practicing and studying, rehearsing and performing, feeling good and not so good about themselves. They’re learning to work together, they’re learning to follow direction, they’re learning what to do when they make mistakes, and they’re learning empathy. Our job as teachers is to guide and support them, and sometimes stop talking.

My 7th-9th grade drama students performed scenes for the final time right before Thanksgiving break. The play is Neil Simon’s comedy “Fools,” and it takes place in 1880 Ukraine. These twelve students have been working on their scenes since early October, one of them from home over Zoom. Wearing old fashioned skirts, suit jackets, shawls and boots from our lonely costume room along with their modern fabric face masks, these young thespians blew me away with their preparation, characterization and commitment. I wanted to jump up and down and exclaim that they had exceeded my expectations in these strange times. I wanted to hug each of them and maybe twirl them around. Instead I kept my distance, like you do these days, and remembered Huck’s request.

I watched each of them revel in the high of a great performance with friends, laughing together and reminiscing about what just happened. As they were cleaning up I heard one say, “That was so fun. It was like we were doing theatre again.”

Because they were doing theatre again. And they were perfect.

Just like Huck’s sonatina.

Huck’s Zoom Sonatina Celebration

2 comments

Pappy T

December 16th, 2020

…just like this blog.

Jeni

December 16th, 2020

Ahhh I needed to read this. I am raising a daughter who would appreciate if I would sometimes not talk. Thanks Sis. XOXO

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