Last Day at Jeremiah Burke H.S.

Posted 9 November 2010 12:00 AM by Anne Ruthmann, Teaching Assistant, Target Arts

It’s amazing what can happen in just six weeks. Today was my final day at Burke High School and I’m really going to miss the students. On Tuesday they performed their own original pieces for the 9th grade students, teachers, some BPS administrators, and some Citi Performing Arts Center staff. Students who wouldn’t even get ON the stage just to sit in a circle with us six weeks ago were up on stage reciting their own poetry, acting out scenes, and expressing their thoughts on truth, unity, acceptance, and violence. Students who normally never raise their hands in class were taking the lead on stage with microphones and lights in front of a crowd of people. If public speaking is one of the most common fears, think about how amazing it is for these students to simply share their thoughts vocally or physically in front of a crowd of people. (I’m getting choked up just thinking about it.)

As I look through the evaluations from the students, there were some comments that really exemplified how the program was able to make a difference:

“This program got me going for the day; people need arts & theatre”

“I learned how to deal with and be around people (I don’t like) and to work with them.”

“I learned to improve myself and work better than I was, as a team.”

“I learned how to listen to other people’s thoughts; to be a team takes a lot of work and cooperation.”

“This program helps me not to be shy; just express my feelings.”

Unlike an after school program or magnet school where students choose to participate in activities based on their interest, these students were a mixed bag- most of whom had no prior experience in any of the performing arts. These students were given small group assignments in which they had to work with people they didn’t know very well, some of whom they may not even like. Through the arts, they were asked to be creative together and to work in harmony rather than in competition with one another. In order for the group to be successful, each individual had to contribute positively to that success through compromise, teamwork, trust, and respect for one another. I’m so proud of what they were able to accomplish in such a short period of time and I hope that- despite not having a regular performing arts opportunity in their school- they will build on their success and use it to make a positive impact on others.

Anne is currently studying Music Education at University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

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