This year we decided to break the routine of the Christmas Concert and in its place hold a multicultural/holiday celebration, since, while our school is not blessed with many things, we are blessed with a diverse student population and we thought it would be fun. Each class decided on a multicultural/true meaning of Christmas/love thy neighbour/Minions themed presentation in the form of song, dance, or drama.
In the weeks leading up to the assembly, I think I heard every single teacher agonize over their lack of faith in their students’ ability to pull it together. There was many a tense rehearsal period, sacrificed lunch break, and plea for use of the gym stage. I personally decided to take on the overly ambitious task of having my students perform a dramatized reading of a First Nations story. I decided to do this despite the fact that my class is made up of 17 boys and 8 girls, many of whom from both genders wouldn’t be able to follow instructions to save their lives in a fire. Like when I blow my whistle loudly three times, the universal signal for emergency, these kids don’t even so much as twitch in response. They just keep yelling their conversations. There could be a tornado coming and they would just keep talking through it, possibly while they were being whirled away. If a plane went down they would definitely be the last ones to know and locate an exit. I honestly can’t figure out how they’ve survived this long.
To top it all off, I had to find a way to convince my student with autism to participate. When I first tried to pitch the idea to her, she downright refused in her usual manner by closing her eyes to get rid of my offensive presence and shaking her head slowly, as if to say, I wouldn’t even accept a million dollars from you, woman. Thankfully, with the help of our E.A. and her mom, she agreed to narrate the second half. This made for some interesting rehearsals because she did not appreciate being stopped mid-read for me to redirect my “trees” who had started battling with the real spruce boughs I had the brilliant idea to arm them with. She often just kept reading through the chaos like a train going at full steam. The other kids were left scrambling to catch up with her which, really, was probably the best thing for them.
So the show went on and it was filled with everything you could want from a school assembly: students singing awkwardly, parents watching judgmentally, teachers dancing emphatically from below while their kids struggle it out on stage, things taking way longer than planned…. It was pretty much perfect. As my class rushed behind closed curtains to set up for our performance, my students were suddenly very interested in what their cues were and where they should be exactly when, after weeks of rehearsals where I had tried desperately to communicate this. I wanted to say “Fuck you!” to all of them but I love my job so instead I summoned my teacher super power and said, “You start over there you stand right there you come on when she goes off you don’t move until he does you come on last and you have to remember to howl when you hear the word wolf.” The whole thing went okay but our narrator skipped a page, resulting in some silent panicked confusion, and my student with autism did a literal mic drop at the end of her part and nobody could use it for the rest of the assembly, making it kind of impossible to hear the last performance. (Sorry Karen.)
All in all it was another one of those experiences where our staff came together like champions to do something that I think I can safely say was outside all of our comfort zones. And I would do it again. Maybe. Ask me on January 4th.