My last lessons before the arrival of the 25 young people from Heart Global I was encouraging my pupils to be open and simply enjoy the three days of workshops that lay ahead. There was also to be a performance at the end of the third day, but I’m not entirely sure how many of them realised that they ALL would be taking part.
Despite my enthusiasm, (we’ve had the group in school several times before, but not for the last five years) I didn’t get the feeling that the pupils were convinced. Complaints came from some that the start of the workshop days were too early and the finishes too late. Many, possibly most, hadn’t taken part in a performance of any kind since they were at primary school.
Three day later, on the extensive stage of the floor of a nearby sports hall, 140+ of our pupils and the young performance coaches from around the world performed a one and a half hour show twice in one evening and afterwards were beaming about the experience and appeared rather reluctant to go home and bring this three-day cultural experience to an end.
The kids were happy, the parents were happy, and we the staff were also happy. We had seen our often all too cautious pupils, reluctant to stand out from the crowd, brought to the point where many as well as participating in the large-scale group parts of the show, had also been persuaded to perform short singing or dancing solos.
How had it been achieved, well, I suppose it comes down to several things. Firstly, the shear exuberance and enthusiasm of the Heart Global group, they simply sweep everyone along. They support, they nurture and guide. Pupils don’t feel alone, they feel supported and encouraged. As one pupil put it, it was like it was peer pressure in reverse, refusing to participate became strangely ‘un-cool’, or put more positively it was cool to participate, and everyone did, even if, in the end, they found their favoured place to be towards the back.
What did they learn from the experience? Certainly, that stepping outside of their comfort zone can in the end be exciting and give you a tremendous buzz. Then there is the fun of working on part of a large group project can result in creating something impressive that is so much more than a collection of individual efforts. Also working with other young people who are just so enthusiastic about what they do, this really is a beautiful aspect to see. The pupils may not go on to become any sort of performer, but they will have learnt so much about themselves, about others, about passion and enthusiasm and what it is to stand on a stage.
So much of school life is classroom based and focused on academic performance. Let us not forget the importance of formative experiences like this, they are hugely important…..even if the pupils at the start don’t think that they need the experience.
…..and that is why cultural activities in schools are so important.