Excitement filled the room. With great anticipation, every company member awaited the moment his name would be called, his job would be assigned. In ceremonious fashion and fanfare, with a drum roll preceding each announcement and applause following, all students graciously accepted their positions of hire. They signed a red, shiny contract indicating their commitment. Composers, electricians, set designers and carpenters, costume and make-up designers, performers, writers, public relations officers, stage manager and production manager now begin work in earnest.
Protected in a corner of each student’s desk, a white two-inch binder rests, eagerly awaiting its next writing entry, poem or assignment. All writing is neatly organized chronologically in order to observe and analyze growth over time. How have I progressed as a reader, a writer, a mathematician, a scientist, a historian, a learner, a human being? It is imperative that students reflect on what they are doing, assess their strengths and weaknesses and make goals to improve.
Looking in the mirror and asking, “What do I see?” is necessary in stimulating the social-emotional perspective of our learning. The responses to this question, when compared to the first day of school, show that students are beginning to look more closely inside themselves to evaluate who they are, where they are going and what they want to be. This shift will significantly impact their academic achievement as they move through the year. It will also affect how they see the world and themselves interacting with others in this world.
Our theme and thesis have been solidified. After many in-depth discussions, writing sessions and shared emotions, it has become clear.
Theme . . . RECONNECTION.
We dove down deep, explored the many faces of reconnection and determined a thesis that is sure to carry a powerful message to the audience.
Thesis . . . Reconnection causes mixed emotions.
It is evident that the students truly want and care about being reconnected to someone in their lives. But the more they converse, the more they realize that when they get what they think they want and are indeed reconnected, something is missing, something has changed, something is not quite right.
How many kids can say they were hired for a REAL job in third grade?
After learning about the responsibilities and tasks of each job in the company, members of Lightning Strike Kids Opera Company completed preference sheets, carefully selecting three jobs for which they would want to be hired.
Then, began the process and art of persuasion. Convincing the directors that he or she is the best one for the job was expected of each person.
The students delivered. The directors were not disappointed. The decisions will be difficult.
While listening to Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofé, opera company members drew pictures, stories and varied images that entered their minds. Some had entire narratives taking shape on the page. Others created descriptive sensory images through pictures and words. We extended the imaginative session as an introduction to lighting design.
Using flashlights, hand made footlights from previous opera companies and an assortment of lamps, students designed and executed a lighting plan to accompany the music. With no adult direction, twenty-five students collaborated in silence to illuminate a composition they had heard only once. Many discovered a new interest or talent that day. I observed a heightened awareness of interdependence. What do you see?
Lightning Strike Kids Opera Company sparked an amazing conversation. We were discussing why our work is challenging, thought provoking, and encourages us to question and seek answers to make sense of our world.
“It’s not supposed to be easy,” I tell the students. “Were it easy, one would learn nothing.” But the truth is . . . kids don’t get this. They think they are supposed to know the answers, understand immediately all that is asked of them on an assignment and finish a task in a single session. And if they don’t, they feel something is wrong with them. They don’t know what they are missing. How could they? It is our responsibility to show them, guide them to the water, motivate them to move beyond the known. Then and only then will they begin to experience learning in a new way, learning that will take them to a different level of knowing and being.