The first day of school beckons an intriguing metaphor, one that will pique the curiosity, create enthusiasm for learning, and open doors to discovering a new way of being in the classroom. A Venetian mask rests in a wrapped box, waiting to be revealed as a gift to begin the New Year. When opened, the students pass it around the circle admiring its beauty and mystique. Then I pose the question, “How will the mask help us in our learning this year?” Many students stare at me and at the mask, bewildered by the question. I assure them there is no wrong answer. They move to their desks to respond in writing. [Read more…] about The Mask
In their final words to the company on the last day of school, the students bared their souls in sharing their deepest emotions and heartfelt wishes for all. Though we will miss this circle and those who complete it, we will now move on to form new circles. And through these circles we will pass on the wisdom we have gained from one another. [Read more…] about The Last Word
On the last day of school, known as Move Up Day, all students travel as a group to meet their new teachers in the next grade level. Members of Harness the Stars Kids Opera Company made banners of welcome for the incoming company with sincere, thought provoking messages. They also wrote individual letters. Their words of wisdom were heartfelt and genuine in delivery. One sentence from David Montoya’s letter stood out. It speaks volumes about David’s interpretation of the classroom culture in which he has been immersed all year.
“In this class there is no perfect, there is no cool.”
Upon reading this, I felt an immense sense of pride as I realized the depth and breadth of my students’ academic, social and emotional maturity. They are now ready to move on and teach what they have learned to others. And I am ready to teach others what they have taught me.
After the opera, the company loses its sense of purpose for a short period and needs to find its way, its new path. The students try to revert to previous behaviors and “old ways” until they realize that they are changed forever. They can’t go back. Then, they determine the route for a new journey forward.
Back in September when the members of Harness the Stars Kids Opera Company attempted to accomplish the magic carpet challenge, it wasn’t to be. Now, after eight months of living the process of creating an original opera, working collaboratively, being conscious of one another, thinking about we, not me and independently putting on their very own production of Strike and Spare, they did it! They defeated the magic carpet. While standing on a plastic tarp, the company strategically managed to flip this “magic carpet” to the other side without stepping off onto the floor. This was no easy feat.
Since the company had to work through feelings of disappointment and sadness after the opera was over, I insisted that each student convince me that it was indeed the right time to attempt the challenge anew. As you will see below, they were very persuasive and I agreed. [Read more…] about We Didn’t Fail, We Finished! (VIDEO)
Everyone is caught off guard by mixed emotions the day after the opera. Realizing that the culminating event for which we have been preparing all year has now passed is depressing and disappointing. The process of striking the set and taking everything down that we have spent months creating illicits a host of feelings that opens the flood gates. Tears flow and sadness permeates the room. What do I do now? What is my purpose? Who am I? The conversation that follows is perhaps the most poignant of all. In this new space where we find ourselves, the students acknowledge their profound accomplishments and make decisions about how to move forward. But this, only after expressing where they are in the moment.
As we prepare these last days before our original opera production of Strike ‘n Spare, we are thinking carefully about what we want to convey to the public. What do we REALLY want our audience to know and think about after the opera? What message must we deliver and what do we want people to know about us as a company and as individuals?
Our hallway exhibition will showcase the process of the opera throughout the year so that everyone will understand our purpose and mission along the way. It shows the academic accomplishments and the life lessons acquired on the journey.
When asked what they have learned in this process, company members generated a collective list and then wrote about their own personal, powerful lessons. What each student shares and is carrying with him into life beyond third grade should make us think profoundly about what is important in educating our children.
When we packed our suitcases for this year long journey back in August, we knew there would be many decisions to make along the way. The trials, tribulations and triumphs we have experienced collectively and as individuals on this expedition have made us think deeply about who we are and where we are headed. Each has his own personal road to navigate. Where will my road lead? What choices will I make? What setbacks and failures must I endure? When will I yield, take a detour or encounter road closures and construction? Inspired by The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost and the children’s book, If You Plant a Seed, by Kadir Nelson, we took time to stop, visualize and describe the road we see in front of us.
When you drop a stone in the pond, concentric circles spread out and expand their reach beyond a point where the eye can see. They seem to dissipate as the water calms and the stone sinks. But where do the ripples really go?
Like the stone, we cast ourselves into a pool with every action we take and with every thought or feeling we share, never knowing the effect we may have on others. Our ripples travel to unknown destinations and often bring about unexpected returns.
Last Monday, Mr. Fernando, a building service worker in our school, shared that the students’ words he read on a bulletin board outside our classroom inspired him to do his job and to do it well.
Harness the Stars Kids Opera Company . . . your ripples are making a difference.
Harness the Stars Kids Opera Company understands well that making mistakes and pushing through setbacks are part of the learning process. However, knowing this doesn’t make it easier when we are inside a situation that presents us with disappointment, doubt and hard feelings. After a particularly difficult afternoon when company members were struggling with internal conflicts and a host of negative bahaviors, we sat in our metaphorical circle to reflect, air grievances and offer solutions to move forward. We then excused ourselves to write and express our personal thoughts and feelings in an attempt to get beyond the wall in front of us. With only twenty-five working days until the opera premiere, we will allow nothing to stand in our way.
Harness the Stars Kids Opera Company
March 1, 2015
Natania Bennett, Leslie Lopez, Kathryn Riley
Public Relations Officers
We are Harness the Stars Kids Opera Company from Stedwick Elementary School. We are twenty-five third graders from Ms. McGinn’s class. We have formed our own opera company, and our goal is to create and perform an original opera. The thirty-minute production will be performed on May 6 at 2:00 P.M. and on May 7 at 2:00 P.M and 7:00 P.M. in the school’s all-purpose room. [Read more…] about Harness the Stars Kids Opera Company News Release