The week before winter break began, I attended both the middle and high schools’ festive holiday programs. For the middle-school one, I sat in the audience like any other proud parent; for the high-school one, I stood backstage and shushed whisperers, helped kids with their costumes, and kept out of the way of moving stage pieces. I think that’s my second chaperoning shift this year (well, fourth, really, but the second one that “counts” toward the year’s chaperoning duties; the other two were community-service projects, and the students involved asked me).
The arts programs at SA are one of the factors that draw some families to us. They are quite strong, both in performing and fine arts. I have no idea of the budgets for the arts departments, but they must be pretty significant, looking at the facilities and materials involved. The new building has four airy studios for art, ceramics, sculpture and photography, and those rooms are busy whenever I drop into the art or sculpture room during my free periods. Usually, the students are working, and music might be playing, and the teacher is happy to show me what’s going on.
Whether it’s chaperoning backstage, sitting in the audience or dropping into a sculpture class, the arts also give me a chance to make a different kind of connection with a student. I get to acknowledge them for something outside of class and admire what they do–which I really do, I don’t fake my delight in their work.
Every student has to take arts electives, but almost all of them go beyond the minimum requirement, because the classes are so rewarding. I think the requirement is getting to the intermediate level, but it seems as though all the seniors I had in the fall were doing some kind of art class–film, sculpture, theater, ceramics, and dance seem to be the most common ones in my group of 17 (though I also have two band kids). It’s funny how different ones seem to dominate different years. For example, the class that graduated last year was very strong in photography, ceramics, and theater. This year’s crop has fewer serious theater kids, but there are so many students in the fourth-level film class that for the first time they are producing two senior films instead of one.
I love that the school takes the arts so seriously. I love that even the kids who are pretty seriously into something else, like football or math, have at least one art form that they pursue as well. I love that the kids we graduate have had the experience of working alone and together in some kind of artistic pursuit, taking those kinds of risks, and watching other people take them as well. I wish all schools could provide this for their students.