Friday, December 09, 2005

The complications of Squanto

2nd graders in the Gifted Support program take a bow. Posted by Picasa

Squanto was a pretty simple guy when I was a second grader in a small Oklahoma town. He was a friendly Indian. He helped the Pilgrims. He taught them how to hunt and fish and plant crops. He was the guest of honor at the first Thanksgiving.

Over the past several weeks, as my son rehearsed his line for the GS play about Squanto and the first Thanksgiving, I realised that his Squanto was more complex than mine. Like Gilligan might be if we could see his life before the island. Squanto went willingly to England? He came home and had a wife and child? He was captured and sold into slavery? His wife and child died from small pox? Clearly, my son's view of Squanto, or Tisquantum, is more complete than mine was until now.

But his view of a lot of things is more complete than mine as a boy. Before the performance I attended, as the excited second graders waited for the autitorium to fill with seventh and eighth graders (a phenomenon unto itself), Mrs. Paulino, the music teacher and accompanyist/pianist for the play, kept the kids' energy focused by playing holiday tunes. As soon as she hit the intro chords to Jingle Bells, the kids came together to sing along. Then another song that makes me think of Christmas. And just as I was starting to wonder how she could get away with that, she pulled Dreidel, Dreidel out of her hat, and all the kids sang along with that, too.

Dr. Rubin, the Gifted Support teacher for all grades, inspired the kids to learn their parts, which they all did very well. Although she might have been overheard to say something like, "I'm getting too old for this," it was clear that she and her students had a lot of fun preparing for and presenting the play. Parent Kathy Romano designed the scenery and major props, and the students painted.

So back to those seventh and eighth graders. The cast was understandably nervous about performing in front of the big kids. After walking through groups of those big kids outside the school in the mornings, I was a bit curious to see how this would work. Once the students were seated, Mrs. Kluxen, an eighth grade teacher, paused to remind the audience, many of whom had attended Henry since Kindergarten, that Henry students are great audiences. She didn't threaten them. She didn't belabor the point. When the curtain came up, the auditorium full of pre- and early adolescents was indeed a great audience: quiet, laughing at the right time, and appropriately appreciative at the end. On the 19th, it will be the older kids on the stage, for the winter concert, and the second graders will get to return the favor.

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