At the end of every school year, my class puts on a play.
They cut up huge cardboard boxes to make sets, they create the costumes out of old scraps and outgrown clothes.
They create the script. They direct. They make the posters and the programs. They practice and memorize and improvise and fine tune.
At the end of every school year, I ask myself why I tolerate the chaos and the mess and the paint smell. I ask myself if all of the time and money spent is really worth it.
And every year, I realize that it definitely is.
My students create a play that is original, always a bit random, and often completely confusing. By the time they have completed the creation, the rehearsals and the multiple performances, I am always exhausted.
But it is worth it.
It. Is. So. Worth. It.
I’ll tell you why.
There is no rubric.
There are no scores to measure success.
The children are allowed to create on their own. They are allowed to make the story their own.
There is almost no adult guidance or control
Which means that the kids have to compromise, work together, support each other, listen to each other. They have to learn how to share a stage. They have to be able to imagine a place and then to create that place. They have to learn how to depend upon each other and upon themselves.
They get to laugh.
They get to be silly.
Every year, every single year, at least one shy child steps forward and assumes a leading role. Every year, at least one assertive child learns to step back and listen with an open mind. Every year, children learn how powerful it is to share a stage with friends, and how exhilarating it is to be a part of a cooperative group.
I don’t interfere in the play. I don’t insert my ideas or my beliefs. As much as I possibly can, I do something else while the play is being created and shaped and fine tuned.
And this is the true meaning of education.
When the kids in my class put on their wigs, their bacon costumes, their tiaras and their matching tutus, they are showing all of us what they have learned in the fifth grade.
It is so not about the rubrics. Or the test scores. Or the stupid state tests.
What they have learned is that they are competent. They have learned that they are kind. They are cooperative. They are funny.
They have learned that they can work in a group and can put forth their very best efforts to make that group a success.
When we do our play, my students have learned that nothing is sweeter than hearing the audience laugh, and knowing that you and your friends made that magic happen.
Number two on the list of things that I will miss. My annual class play.