Today I had the opportunity to sit in on a segment of an elementary "special." For those unfamiliar, built into our Lower Elementary program are a variety of curriculum extensions that occur through special instruction every Friday. Following a unique weekly schedule, specials are taught by individuals with specific expertise, passion, and/or experience in the area. Often, these are comprised of our own staff members, but frequently they include non-OGMS folks from the community. An added benefit, the diversity of specialty instructors exposes our students to differing instructional styles, authority figures, and inspiring role models. This aspect alone makes special instruction Fridays and invaluable experience that cultivates adaptability, flexibility, perception, and confidence in our students. Combined with the content of the activity the specials are, historically speaking, memorable components of a L.E. kid's life.
As it goes, the special subjects tend to be the same from year to year, differing mostly in instructor or content. For example, Music, while a regular yearly segment, might be taught one year by someone with a special interest in choral performance, the next year someone who wants to emphasize use of instruments, and so on. This year's LE SPECIALS line-up consists of Music, Movement/Dance, Gardening, P.E., Art, and Drama. It's a SUPER active day!
When I entered the Multi-Purpose room this morning, dance was in session. Quickly I joined the group lined along the stage edge as one student ( a second year) danced. From the random change in tracks I recognized this as an exercise in interpretive dance, of sorts. From classical, to rock, to blue grass she changed her rhythm and style of movements. I was so touched by her confidence, how she looked into the audience with ease, her expressions poised and joyful, obviously pleased with herself. Moving without any pause from one style of music to the next, she needed no reinforcement, prompting, or regrouping as she moved, guided by her spirit and trust in her self. What a desirable state of mind for a seven year old. How will this type of "optional" opportunity, not offered just once or twice, but as a regular practice over the next couple of years, prepare her for the countless occasions she'll be asked to "perform," on and off stage, in the coming years? Will it make a difference in the way she expresses herself, what she accepts for herself or, how intuitive she is about others?
Not all members, of this particular group, elect to take a turn in the vulnerable space. As the teacher moved down the line I felt a sudden urge to participate. Surprised expressions, even the instructor, begged me forward as I took center stage. Admittedly, now I felt a little uneasy under the heat of the lights, nine pairs of googling eyes and grins shining back. A teachable moment, I thought to myself, as I shared my nervousness and slight panic with the six to nine year olds awaiting the principal's performance. The music began and there was no turning back.
I'm thankful for this space called "specials" where elementary students can explore their insecurities, their feelings, their coordination (or lack there of) safely, with no pressure, just encouraging, loving support and understanding from both peers and instructors alike.
As a mom of three Montessori alum and serving as Head of School, here at Oak Grove, my brain often feels like I-285, traveling in rush-hour traffic, in search of an open ramp. Perhaps some of what exits will find it's way to you and be helpful, or, in the least, informative. Enjoy!