Letting Kids be Kids

Jesse Pfaff Secondary English Education/ACH Clear Pathways After School Arts Program

As I continue working towards my own final project for this internship, the students at the ACH Clear Pathways are working hard towards an end goal as well. Each semester, the students work in their respective majors to create products for the show case. Along with their projects in dance, visual arts, and media arts the students perform a play all together. This semester’s showcase is meant to highlight and celebrate George Benson, an artist born here in Pittsburgh. Over the last few weeks, we have been meeting as a whole group in the auditorium and practicing the play. Aside from the 15-minute dinner, the students are seldom all together like this. It can, and has, become chaotic and distracted very quickly. In all fairness, up until now everything has pretty much been all fun and games for the students. Yet now we ask them to choose roles and read lines. To follow along with the script. To sit quietly and listen to their peers practice. For some, it is too much to handle. The younger students struggle, and usually Ms. Jill or one of the interns will take them aside and try to entertain them. This is expected behavior of a 5-year-old. I worried about the students who were older, who might think they were “too cool” for the whole thing. I was particularly worried about the boy who was cast to play George Benson, the main character. The little interaction I have with him during meals gave me the impression that he was a little bit of a troublemaker. He liked to tease some of the younger boys. He flirted with the girls. He was very often being a mild disturbance or nuisance. When we began practicing the play, I worried that this student would be unable or unwilling to take the play seriously given my previous experiences with him. I was very wrong. The student who plays George Benson arrived about halfway through our rehearsal on Monday. It had not been going very well. The students feed off of each other and get rowdy. It gets to a point where they will no longer listen to any of the teachers or interns. This is usually when we threaten to get Ms. Danai. As we were waiting for her to arrive upstairs and set them straight, the student playing George Benson arrived. He quickly set the tone. He saw his friends and peers being disrespectful and ignoring directions. He would call them out by name in front of everyone. He spoke his lines loud and clear, something we were unable to get from the other students – until this point. They all began to follow his lead. This was the most progress the group had made until this point. I made sure to let the student know how much I appreciated his effort and his help in getting everyone to cooperate. He shrugged it off, saying, “it’s nothin, kids are just gonna be kids”. I haven’t stopped thinking about this interaction all week. It’s been made abundantly clear in the time I’ve spent at ACH that we are all family. In this moment, I could see that even the so-called class clown loved and appreciated his ACH family. In this moment, I felt like a part of it.


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