by Dr. Stuart Grauer on November 27, 2012

A Meditation on Middle School Café Night of Art, Drama and Music, Thursday, November 15

The first thing we observed was how confident they all looked, even though they were performing in front of a couple hundred people in the Great Hall. One could easily conclude it was because they felt that way, confident, about the whole school. What if, we thought, they graduated and felt that way about their whole college and, graduating again, felt that way about the world? This would be courage, to feel this way.

This would be beyond courage—it is an imperative if we want a better world. Watching Amelia sing “Landslide.” Aubrey singing “Raise Your Weapon” while our AV team squeezed up the vocal volume on the soundboard without even thinking about it. Courtney singing “Bluebird,” I thought: we’re not going to accept a humanity that is not a family. “Instead of dying, they kissed each other,” Justice quoted in his monologue, “Spring Awakening.”

These kids are wide awake, because they need to be that way for each other. What an incredibly positive, healthy, efficacious approach to leadership and life on a small and increasingly interconnected planet: just singing and reciting to one another!

All that, and Luke singing and strumming “Sing Together” and meaning it, creating it. And Nino, and Dante, and Sophie. McKenna smiling and strumming. I didn’t expect this at all, all this soul and authentic artistry, I admit. I expected middle school kids, and I’d go in there and wish them luck, and wave, then go back to my work. That’s not what this was at all. These kids stand strong behind every brush stroke they make and note they play.

“Confidence heals you,” observed English teacher Christina Burress the next morning. The teen angst embedded in some of the song selections, inevitable and residing somewhere between what is deep and what is sweet in youth tends to ask the question: “What is the source of all this courage?” But the incredibly larger reality is the answer, saying, overwhelming, “We are all this together.” That’s confidence. That’s hope. That’s peace.

Only great teaching produces a reality like that. Middle School Café Night was why I love my field and understand it to be the most important work in the world.

If you are not sure what I mean, and also if you are, watch Max convey it more powerfully here.

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