A few days ago, I spent an evening in the wings.
Students in my school's dance program put on their winter show. I knew that their regular teacher had been out on maternity leave and was aware that a volunteer and substitute had been on hand to help facilitate this show. My students were very clear about how much of this production was student-run. I signed up to help backstage mostly in order to fulfill the requirements of earning 301 pay.
Several students in the dance program are in my classes and they had been looking weary these past few weeks. One student told me how she was in 6 numbers and responsible for the choreography of two dances. Our student body president had a solo as well as three other routines, and the president of the dance club was getting over the flu.
I learned of their involvement when inquiring about homework or asking after a missing journal assignment. The weight of their excuses weren't anchored until I saw them perform.
For about two hours, I watched students organize themselves, take the stage, and perform repeatedly. I wore a headset, but turned down the volume and listened to them offer encouragement, and generously high five or hug one another after various numbers instead of minding the chatter of the sound booth.
During a hip-hop routine, a student I'd never had in any of my classes, but who has a bit of a "slacker" reputation informed me that he had edited the music and choreographed the dance. Another student who was very vocal about hating writing and seemed to sleep through my Creative Writing class first semester came alive on stage. She was stunning.
Is this how it feels to not be able to express something in writing? To appreciate the words of others while simultaneously not understanding the nuances or choreography of phrase?
Their dances began to turn into narratives, arguments, and paragraphs of perfectly executed pathos.
During intermission, oldies-but-goodies were played. I removed my headset and congratulated those who had performed. I was unconsciously singing along to "Bye, Bye Miss American Pie," when a student put out his hand as an invitation to dance. Perhaps it was the lack of lighting that helped me forget my awkwardness.
He taught me how to do a sort-of two step and how to twirl. We received applause from other students as the song ended and the dancers became young professionals again. Before he joined the ranks, my impromptu dance instructor leaned forward and said, "See? You're never too old to learn something new."
I vow to remember how what couldn't be expressed on the page in my classes by some students was perfectly expressed on stage that evening. I will also hold fast to the way the students came together and unabashedly celebrated their success at concert's end. It was joyous--so beautiful.
It is also my intention to attend more games and concerts each semester to learn something new about my students and, best of all, to learn something new about myself from them.