Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash
These days school annual day performances are big affairs. Even at the pre-primary and primary levels, professional quality performances are expected. But how much of these performances include contributions from kids? What are kids actually learning from annual day?
Script writing for plays, choreography for dances, music and lyrics are done by teachers and professionals. Same is true for set design and props. So what exactly are the kids doing? Over and over again, they repeat the same lines by rote using language and expressions that the teachers are drilling in to them until they have perfected it. Same with the dances or anything else.
I am all for practice makes perfect, but is that all there should be to annual day, which is supposed to showcase the talents of the kids? Couldn’t there be some balance? Slightly older older kids could be involved in writing the script, choreographing dances, designing sets on the computer, depending on their skills and interests. The very young ones could work on simple props, and art and craft projects along with teachers to help create the decorations and sets. Do all the creative aspects of annual day have to be outsourced, so the students can with drone like perfection spew out the results of mindless practice?
Annual day performances are very expensive affairs with thousands spent on individual costumes and props, besides sets and professional trainers. But what does this elaborate affair really teach children? That creativity and enterprise are unimportant, and only by spending large amounts of money can you achieve anything worthwhile? Can’t schools instead teach kids to be resourceful and help them figure out creative ingenious ideas for set deigns and costumes and props?
One good thing about annual day is it helps kids get over stage fright and fear of public speaking. It gets them used to speaking to a large audience and facing a crowd with equanimity.
But since everything is heavily rehearsed or read from script, it doesn’t actually teach them to connect with an audience. Can they engage with the audience off script? Can they be spontaneous at all? What about the narrators? Can they at least take audience reaction in to consideration and alter their words or expressions accordingly? The set up in entirely too formal and rigid and I don’t think they are even allowed to go off script.
Comfort And Priorities
For a professional quality performance kids as young as 4 are made to wear elaborate synthetic costumes, heavy make up and loads of glitter.
One time, after annual day it took 4 baths to get about 70 percent of the glitter out of my daughter's skin and hair. Finally we gave up and waited for the rest to wear off. For the next few days, there would be glitter on her pillow, bedsheet and clothes and make her eyes itchy.
I was also very apprehensive buying make up for her sensitive soft skin. But the school absolutely insisted on a thick layer of makeup including foundation and eyeliner. When I tried to put eye-liner, my 4 year old freaked out and completely smudged it. She begged me not to try again.
I don't usually let her wear make up, and on any other day the teachers remind the kids not to wear any nail polish or make up because it is bad for them. And suddenly, on annual day, they are being forced to wear loads of it. I felt like a hypocrite.
Another time my younger one had to wear a costume with an elaborate headband with a large plastic attachment. Because of the weight of the attachment, the headband kept falling over her eyes while she was dancing. Periodically, she'd stop dancing to adjust the headband.
It leaves me to wonder what exactly are kids learning from being bullied in to wearing uncomfortable attire and unhealthy make up?
Publicity And Glamor
Personally, I would like to see annual day performances where the costumes, dances, songs and plots for plays are simple and put together by kids with some help from teachers. Perhaps teachers could come up with a central theme and take inputs from kids. This would be more difficult to implement and probably heavily flawed with plenty of imperfections. But it would be a far greater learning experience and source of confidence for kids and far more meaningful to parents who come to watch it.
It would be something the kids and school worked on together, showcasing not just the kid’s dialogue regurgitating and dance steps reproducing skills, but also their creativity, initiative, enterprise, art and craft skills.
By providing opportunities for kids to be creative, resourceful and enterprising, one builds their confidence from within to tackle not just stage and public speaking, but also all the curve balls that life will throw their way.
Perhaps annual day pictures thus obtained won't make for the most glamorous publicity shots, but I'd give it a big thumbs up.
What do you think?
Schools today make great efforts to follow an interactive and activity oriented curriculum that makes learning fun for kids and encourages creativity and enterprise. My daughters love school and learning. So school has succeeded in imbibing curiosity and a love for learning and exploring in both my kids. For that I am really grateful. But somehow when it comes to annual day, it seems to me they have lost their way.
So what is annual day at your kid's school like? Do you like it the way it is? Would you like to see any changes? Share with me your thoughts, feelings and suggestions.