The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Thespians

KCS Students Perform at Studio TheatreAs many of you know, on a Friday back in November Ms. Biljetina and I took a group of eight Grade 8 KCS students to Stratford, Ontario to take part in the Student Players Festival: the fourth and final stage of Stratford’s incredible Teaching Shakespeare program. Our students performed a 10 minute scene from Romeo and Juliet on the legendary Studio Theatre stage in front of peers, parents and professional adjudicators from the Stratford Festival.

Since the students had also been studying S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders, we decided to set our scene in the 1960s – the Capulets became Soc’s and the Montagues turned into Greasers. What happened on that stage was truly magical. Working with a professional stage crew, the kids learned about blocking, sets, timing, and all the other behind-the-scenes machinations that go into a professional stage production. But what they really learned went so far beyond that. Call it The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Thespians:

  1. Take responsible risks: Putting themselves out on the stage to be adjudicated was a huge risk – not only for the kids, but for us directors!
  2. Seek collaboration: The students not only had to work with each other and their teachers to plan the scene, a professional actor from Stratford also stepped in to offer advice and direction.
  3. Think creatively: Benvolio wearing hair gel and a leather jacket? The kids truly had to open their minds to combine these two works of literature.
  4. Find humour: A bumbling police officer introduced the two warring houses of Verona. Hilarious.
  5. Strive for accuracy: The students choreographed a stage combat scene that required precision and planning to ensure that it looked realistic and no one got hurt.
  6. Persist: Memorizing 10 minutes of Shakespearean dialogue. Need I say more?
  7. Adapt: Two minutes before we were about to perform, we discovered one of our props was missing. The students improvised and adapted like pros.

I could not have been more proud of our students, and the way they rose to the challenge. In the words of Bette Davis, “Without wonder and insight, acting is just a business. With it, it becomes creation.” That day on the stage of the Studio Theatre, those eight students learned lessons that were wonderful, insightful and deeply creative, and I was so privileged to have been able to share the experience with them.

Teresa Pollett-Boyle
Drama teacher, Arts Coordinator

More than Spring has Sprung at KCS

Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.
~Quoted by Lewis Grizzard in Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You

The warm sunshine, return of the robins, dancing daffodils and burgeoning tree buds weren’t the only new arrivals to recently grace our community. Though the emphatic entrance of spring was deeply appreciated, something else has awoken that even topped the weather for its sheer delight.

After years in our thoughts, dormant but developing, KCS is now proud to offer electives, electives with some significant twists, twists that had many of the grade 6 students, who get first crack at this opportunity, beside themselves with excitement.

A general introduction to electives was in last week’s parent e-newsletter Stay Connected. They’re designed for students to just learn for the love of it, learn by choice, not for marks, nor because the Ministry of Education says you must. It’s a time to develop the Habits of Mind, Body and Action that indisputably set us up to be successful. And it’s a time to offer an unlimited array of meaningful learning. If teachers and students can dream it, they now have time to do it. Directly connected to our school mission of developing lifelong learners, it’s designed to stoke the flames that fuel lifelong learning.

Judging from my small group of third-language learners, it’s working.

Students in grade 6 were given eight electives to choose from. Based on their choices, the forty-two students are now in one of six electives for 100 minutes each week of third term. One group is learning to cook from Chef Cirillo of Cirillo’s Culinary Academy. The result of their labours this past week was a mouth-watering chicken cacciatore dish that went directly to a youth shelter. Another group is engaged in geocaching. Enriched technology, art and drama are also taking place. And my group has each student learning the foreign language of their choice. Concurrently, (and thanks the significant help of Rosetta Stone language learning software), the students are learning the following languages: Mandarin, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and Filipino. Just because they want to.

Some of you may have read Sir Ken Robinson’s book The Element: How finding your passion changes everything. He’s right, of course. The bulk of his book exposes the far too common disconnect between the regular school day and finding one’s passion, as if passion only has relevance in extra-curricular pursuits. Not here.

One of my students announced he was going to try to learn enough Mandarin to use it exclusively with the flight attendant on an upcoming family trip (hmm, not sure how that will go but keen to know!) To achieve his goal he has asked if he can use the software at home and if there are apps he can download on his iPad.

Lifelong learner, check.