Dear New School Families,
The other day my 15-year-old son 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 teacher (and parent), 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 my son 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.
I think of our arts students and their many talents and abilities. In classes and after-school lessons they are learning skills as painters, singers, actors, designers, drummers, pianists and so much more. They are 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.
The upper school drama students performed their 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 12 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 my son’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.
With Cougar Pride,
The New School Arts Director