I find myself giving a lot of pep talks these days. Whether it’s telling my high school students to stop obsessing over another dance team’s costumes/props/anorexic talent and start focusing instead on their own performance, reminding my middle school kids to breathe when they’re hurrying out of one costume and into the next, or telling my first graders to “get their wiggles out” so they can focus, I’m pretty much in perpetual encouragement mode this time of year.
Which is why I can’t believe it when the following little scenario played out in one of my creative movement classes earlier this week.
The School’s year-end concert is just around the corner, which means I’m responsible for putting together a “demonstration of tasks and gross motor skills” for each of my two classes and a “finale dance” for those beach balls who will be moving on to Kindergarten next year.
Of course not all of the graduates are in the same class—that would be too easy—so this week we’ve been shuffling the schedule around to allow me to hold a series of mega-rehearsals with all 19 kids in the same class.
My goal for the “finale dance” is to ensure that there’s not a dry eye left in the entire theater. And to make sure that our branch’s year-end concert is better than the other branch’s because I know my little North Philly kids can out-dance their Queen Village counterparts any day of the week.
Especially because they can do headstands.
Not all of them, mind you, but three of the more agile boys have mastered the art of inversions so the dance is going to begin with the three of them standing on a mat in the middle of the stage looking all serious and then, when the music starts, they’re going to flip over and do their thing and the audience is going to go nuts.
But of course, that leaves the other 16 kids. The 16 kids who can’t do headstands.
Given the potential for bodily harm, I’m very selective when it comes to teaching headstands. I won’t even let my littler beach balls try, even when they pull up their shirt sleeves and say, “But I’m FOUR, Miss Kat! Look at my muscles!!!”
I told them that they cannot do headstands until they are FIVE. Then I gave my less-agile five year olds the pep talk of their lives.
“We are all different,” I began. “And we are all special. Some of us love music. Some of us love dance. Some of us love art. So even if you’re not going to do a headstand in the show, you are still going to have a very special part. In fact, everyone is going to have a special part!”
I then turned to one of less-agile-but-nonetheless-excellent-dancers, took a deep breath and said, “Now So-and-so, can you be mine LINE LEADER for the somersault section?”
Being the line leader is pretty much the preschool equivalent to being the quarterback/captain of the cheerleading squad/President of the United States so I was pretty sure he’d forget all about his disappointment over not being in the headstand section and accept my offer with all the grace and dignity a five year old appointed to a leadership position can muster.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he cocked his head to the side, looked at me like I was crazy and said, very deliberately, “No Miss Kat. I’ve decided I’m going to paint.”
I’ve decided I’m going to paint?
There is no painting in the finale dance!
It took me a second to figure out just where my little beach ball was going with this but then I remembered: Oh yeah. I just finished saying “Some of us love music. Some of us love dance. Some of us love art…” Evidently he took the art part literally.