I’ve been thinking about a couple of things that came up at school today. One of my students is reading Loser by Jerry Spinelli. As I was talking about the book with him, one of the sentences jumped off the page:
As with all discoveries, it is the eye and not the object that changes.
My students have been giving their Expert Reports to the class over the past two weeks. They choose a topic they’re already familiar with (a hobby they have, a sport they play, an artistic talent they’ve developed), and then they develop their expertise on the topic even more through research. Students then become teachers and teach the class about what they love. Almost always, students end up sharing something about themselves that would never come up in the course of a typical school day. I share a quote from Voltaire with the class when I introduce this project:
Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.
Both of these ideas continued to marinate in my mind as I went to a production of the musical Grease at my daughter’s high school tonight. It was opening night and the cast, crew, and orchestra really put on an excellent performance. As I understand it, most of them have worked together for several years on various productions. Somehow, I always seem to come away from these shows surprised by the talent I see on display. I shouldn’t be.
Tonight though, something was different. My daughter’s friend Matt played the role of Sonny, one of Danny Zuko’s buddies. He tried out for the play on a whim, never having done anything like it before. His mom told me a few weeks ago that it was difficult for him to break into this tight knit group of performers.
His performance, for me, was eye opening. I saw Matt in a way I never had before. He acted, sang, and danced as if this was his twenty-first show, not his first. In the weeks leading up to the show, I just couldn’t picture him pulling this off. But he did. And his performance was amazing. He brought a smile to my face, and to the faces of many in the crowd.
I think the arts brought out in him something that hadn’t been nurtured before. I was glad I was there to witness it. But could it be that the discovery tonight of Matt’s artistic talents is really more of a change in our collective eyesight instead of a change in Matt? Either way, I appreciate the excellence that he, and everyone else involved in the show, shared with us tonight. And that’s a wonderful thing.