Well, it's that time of year again. Kids bursting with excitement. Teachers making last-minute adjustments behind the scenes. Parents aiming their camcorders to capture every moment. And then the curtain opens ...
'Tis the season for students to give amazing performances!
In the past two weeks, I've had the pleasure of attending Cariboo Hill's Jazz Café, Lyndhurst's A Hippity Hop Christmas, Byrne Creek's Oliver Twist, Capitol Hill's A Dickens of a Christmas, and Brentwood Park's Legend of Polar Mountain.
From elementary to secondary, one end of Burnaby to the other, the common thread that ties these school productions together is a commitment to music and the performing arts.
In Burnaby, unlike many school districts, every student receives music education from kindergarten to Grade 7 from a specialist teacher, and every secondary school has music, drama and dance teachers offering a variety of courses and extracurricular opportunities.
The benefits to children and youth from instruction in music and the visual and performing arts are well documented. And the investment is well worth it.
But no institute or think tank can quantify the value of these experiences for our students and school communities with a number or rank.
Instead, I'll leave it to a parent to share (with her permission, of course) why it's so important that we continue to pack those gyms, theatres and auditoriums, at the very least, once a year.
"Exhale ... yesterday was the happiest day of my life since I became a mommy. Yesterday was Jayna's first Christmas concert at school. Those that know Jayna understand how challenging social interaction and social environments have been for her and know how extremely overwhelming they have been in the past. Yesterday she completely overcame those challenges and sparkled like a bright star. She walked up on the stage with her class, looked for me in the crowd, waved with the hugest smile, our eyes connected and so did our hearts. She resisted every urge to come running down to hug me, instead remained in place and blew me at least 20 kisses. She clutched her heart necklace that I gave her to wear and waited for the music to start. I was so thrilled that she had made it on stage! Yay!
"Then the music started. She sang her little heart out, actions and all. I was snapping photos, singing along and my heart was gushing. Not for the fact that she was 'performing' well but because she had finally arrived in a place of joy in her life. Her anxiety was no longer preventing her from living a life of heartfelt joy. For a spirited young girl to spend the first five years struggling with feeling connected and at peace with anything or anyone, she had finally experienced true bliss.
"Trusting her teacher's lead, trusting her little friends around her, feeling their nervous energy surrounding her, managing her own nervousness and anchoring her eyes and heart with mine as she looked out into the audience. So there I was snapping photos, singing, waving, blowing kisses and bawling my eyes out because I was witnessing my daughter's first blissful and joyful moment. One that she let go of all her fear, grounded herself and sang the hell out of I wanna hippopotamus for Christmas!
"She sang with confidence, with pride and pure happiness. I witnessed that. I have longed for this day. For her to just let go and shine bright in her own light. Yesterday she sparkled more radiantly than ever. She felt it. She felt pride. She felt joy. She felt peace. She felt connection with self. Finally."
May all our students feel the same this holiday season and throughout their educational journeys.
Harman Pandher, vice-chair, Burnaby board of education