Old school on the hill. No snow today.

I had a very nice assembly at at small town school in Hampton in western NJ this morning. It was pleasant to only have a 45 minute trip through this beautiful Jersey countryside. The principal greeted me at the door and showed me the gym/auditorium and I set up in good time for my 8:45 am set.

There were only 90 kids, K – 5th grade, and the principal said it was a treat to have such a small population to work with. I even remarked to her that I saw kids walking up the hill from the town to the school. Walking to school ! Damn. One grade looked like it had only seven girls in it.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done an assembly – things are particularly slim in the school biz these days – but I rolled out the show with the good stuff. There were several very disgruntled 5th grade boys who were not about to show any interest. I prodded them a couple of times and but told myself not to focus on them and play to the students and teachers who were obviously ready to boogie. Good move.

I Like Peanut Butter, Tutti Tah, Cat Came Back, Bear Hunt (we put together one about a Ghost Shark), Baby Shark, Down By the Bay, Giants, All Around the Kitchen. Lots of interaction, humor and movement.

As I’m doing these days, I was able to finish with a session of reflections from the kids and the teachers. The kids had a tough time remembering what we did early in the show, but that’s okay. It’s the process that’s important. The interesting feedback came from the teachers (I had set it up that they would follow the kids’ thoughts). They chimed in with: interaction, using rhyming skills, adjectives (!), movement, getting kids up on stage and involved from their seats and more. They got it.

This conversation with the teachers is proving to be a college-level workshop for them (and me). My whole presentation becomes a model for arts presentation in the schools, and this confirms it. I’m able to add a few comments along the way to let them know why I do what I do, and that I do it on purpose. It’s also a good way to have the kids sit in on the talk, and hear what the staff liked.

I learned something today, as well. As we finished up the reflections, it dawned on me that I should let them know what I also learned. I said that I was glad that I refrained on focusing on the negative energy from parts of the audience and let it slide. I have had some uncomfortable situations in the past and, hopefully, with this admission to these teachers, I may have helped myself. Never too late to change my ways.

I wish I could do this every day.

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