From the title of the blog you might assume I find children less than appealing. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
In July I team-taught two weeks of a musical theater workshop class for 9-12-year-olds at Lyric Arts in Anoka, MN, called “Revolting Children.” I remember watching the Tony awards a couple years back, and the children in the production of “Matilda” entertained us with the song “Revolting Children” and I was floored by the talent. I came to find out from my experience at Lyric Arts that Broadway has some stiff competition with child talent from the Twin Cities. Many of these workshop kids sang, acted, and danced like pros. All in five days.
Besides teaching arts to this age, I particularly like to engage in conversation with them. They’re old enough to think abstractly, but young enough not to care what a group of strangers in their class think of their creativity and imagination. The new buzz word is “literally” and they use it correctly. The enthusiasm of entering fourth grade wasn’t thrilling to some since schools talk too much about puberty in health class. At the end of one day, a child asked me, “Ms. Talia, do you wear dark make-up under your eyes?” “No dear…it’s all a part of being Ukrainian.” Or on the last day, a child made a stress ball as a parting gift to me. Was there some sort of subtext in giving me that gift? Kids are all good, and even when they’re bad, they’re good.
Just before the children gave their final performance for their family and friends, I asked if anyone wanted to share what was positive about their week’s experience. One student raised a hand. I loved the comment – “I’m grateful I had this kind of opportunity when there are other kids who can’t.” I wanted to go into a litany of, “YES, keep in mind just how privileged you are! You can attend these week-long workshops! Yes, you SHOULD be grateful!” I spared them my pontification, as hearing a soapbox speech from me would have certainly made them roll their eyes and put a damper on their performance.
My parents paid for my piano lessons, but everything else I did as a child in the arts was through my church and public school arts programs. Because of these experiences I stretched my intellect, became a better communicator, created pottery that was almost usable, learned how to work as a team player with some very strong personalities (yes, we’re all divas) and could make up some reasonable excuse to get me out of a class where I had good grades, but found excruciatingly boring.
No doubt, we need to stay competitive with language, science and math with the rest of the world. However, those nations we’re lagging behind have students immersed in the arts with governments who are willing to put money into developing their creativity. When did creative arts stop being a requirement and start becoming a privilege?
This experience has shown me it’s time to become a Revolting Adult. It’s time for me to learn how to play and imagine again. It’s time to contribute financially for those who don’t have the luxury of “being grateful to have this kind of opportunity.” Most importantly, it’s time to let those who control our school budgets know we’re not going to be able to compete with other nations if they take away the academics that feeds children’s souls.[REVOLTING CHILDREN!!!] [Team Teacher Hannah Weinberg and I]