I’m privileged to work for a classical, Christian school. What I’d really like to do, though, is attend.
OK. I’m one of those people who start snorting and pawing the ground when I smell wood shavings and graphite from a pencil sharpener or open a new box of crayons. The smooth newsprint with alternating broken and unbroken blue lines revealed brave new worlds for me in first grade.
Unlike my poor husband, who actually began counting the years remaining in his compulsory schooling when he was only eight, I was ecstatic when, in fourth grade, I got two antique school desks and a chalkboard for my birthday. I’ve always loved the idea of “school”.
And now I work for the one I wish I’d attended! There are so many things I could say about it, but I’d like to focus on one for this post: the stage.
Logos (my school) has always had a small auditorium with a stage. Then, eleven years ago, they built a fieldhouse for worship services, and sporting and community events. It has a gym floor and bleachers–and a stage!
The stage is focal for Logos. One of the most important things students do in the context of a classical education is learn to communicate what they know and believe.
From Kindergarten through sixth grade, they must be in class plays. All the students participate. They learn to take instruction, to speak loudly and enunciate, to memorize lines, to emote and to appear with poise before an audience. Of course, they also get to wear costumes and use props, which makes it even more fun! This all takes place on the auditorium stage.
In additon, every elementary and junior high child must participate in the speech meet, memorizing either a Bible passage, a poem or fable or a literary oration. These are honed and presented before a panel of judges and an audience. The children who go on to the interschool speech meet present their selections on the auditorium stage.
When the students enter high school at ninth grade, they graduate to rhetoric classes–mandatory for every high school year. They may choose their own topic, subject to approval by their teachers. Then the research and rehearsing begins. Ultimately, they present their arguments publicly and their resulting grades aid in honing their skills. The goal is still the same: to be able to communicate what one knows and believes with poise before an audience of two or twenty or two thousand, whether peers or strangers. In short: to be comfortable on stage.
The high schoolers also graduate from the speech meet format to a national scholarship program called Poetry Out Loud. I wish you could hear the finalists as they perform on the auditorium stage! You’d be amazed at how moving and lively poetry can be! http://poetryoutloud.org/
Of course, there are both the junior high drama and the varsity play to enliven the school year. This year, we were treated to Nicholas Nickleby by the varsity players–and it was a major production! The junior high play is in it’s final rehearsals as I write.
The stage also gives us a glimpse of Mock Trial, a national competition for high schoolers with a bent toward law. They’re given a case and have to produce lawyers, witnesses and defendant–and are judged by actual judges. Logos regularly goes to the state and national competitions. Maggie Church who graduated last year, was the first student to receive a unanimous commendation from the judges and a personal letter from Judge Clarence Thomas. http://www.nationalmocktrial.org/
We’re all on stage throughout life, though our audiences vary continually. Classical education accepts that as a given and capitalizes on it by preparing future adults to communicate clearly, with purpose and poise, whether it’s relating a recipe for London broil, leading a military strike force or telling the eternal gospel.
In my ten year observation of students of classical, Christian education, “the stage” (and all that it implies) is a powerful tool in the preparation for speaking the truth in love.