The sign at the front of our school reads:
Include Us and We Will Understand, Inspire Us and We Will Inspire Others
As educators, I believe that each of us aspire to be a role-model and a source of inspiration for our students. Today I'd like to share with you the story of one teacher who more than achieves this goal. Maybe her story will incite you to keep on making every effort to inspire your students.
- Ms. Barnes with Gabriel, just one of her many students.
A young boy stands waiting in the wings, legs shaking as his name is announced through loudspeakers. His palms run up and down the sides of his thighs, trying to keep them dry. This is the moment he's been thinking about, preparing for, and anticipating for months. Here it is. Is he ready?
You can do this, you've got this, he hears her encouraging words repeating over and over in his head. His shoulders rise in a deep breath as he shakes his hands at his sides one last time. The adrenaline forces his legs up the stairs, onto the stage and over to the mic. The audience stares, waiting. Panic. Can he do this? Another deep breath and a shake of his hands to calm his nerves. He spins around to see her sitting there, behind her keyboard. She smiles, gives him a nod, and mouths the words, "You've got this!" He nods and the music plays. In that moment, all the hours of preparation come together and his performance takes flight.
As his ears fill with applause and cheers, he takes a bow, knowing that he will never forget this moment. Exiting the stage, he glances back at the one who believed in him, and gave him the wings to soar. This smile is just for her, his mentor, his teacher, and his inspiration. She smiles back and bows. Her pride in his performance written all over her face. But this night, and this moment, didn't just happen. It is the culmination of vision and sacrifice.
Rewind three months:
- Waiting to perform at the gala!
The anticipated event is the annual Fine Arts Gala. Each year a dedicated group of educators in our school put on the event to help celebrate the fine arts talents of the students at our elementary school. The evening is billed as a fancy gala. It's really quite a sight to see; tickets sold to raise money for a charity of choice, h'orderves served by students dressed in their finest, tables and walls filled with the stunning art of students. Yet, the event's appeal goes well beyond the atmosphere and display; the gala performances are some of the most anticipated events of the year.
The crowd will take their seats, the lights will dim, and the spotlight will shine on each young star. And who is in the background, hiding behind the keyboard, making sure that each student has that spotlight for the evening? Ms. Barnes, that's who. For the last three months there's been practices sessions with students every recess break, and after school. If one would take note, many youngsters would've be seen going to her home to practice into the evening hours. Her commitment doesn't end there. Hours of planning and preparation are put in by Ms. Barnes and her committee: meetings, contacting parents, labelling and mounting art, setting up displays, decorating, sound equipment, lights, readying the stage and making sure everything is perfect. All must be ready for the special evening. Ms. Barnes leads her committee to make sure it is.
Why? Because Ms. Barnes loves music and art, but most of all, she loves her students! Whether it's for the Fine Arts Gala, Christmas concert, or the annual spring musical, her love is evident and played out in the countless hours she donates freely to encourage, inspire and give her students wings. In an age when the importance of the arts may sometimes be downplayed, Ms. Barnes seeks to inspire her young students to have no fear when it comes to sharing their talents with the world. She's not only an extraordinary keyboardist, piano player and teacher; she's a mentor. By giving her students wings, she hopes that they, in turn, will inspire others to share their gifts. Watching the dedication and love she gives freely, inspires me to be a better teacher, too. Thank you, Ms. Barnes for sharing your gifts with all of us!
Want to set up a Fine Arts Gala to inspire the students in your school? Feel free to contact me for more information about how. Here are the steps we follow to put on the FA Gala at our school:
1) Set up auditions. Students must be committed to a giving a practiced well rehearsed performance. If they don't practice, they don't perform.
2) Art club: teachers on the committee agree to supervise art club once/week and guide students to put sketches into the gala. They are provided with pencils, a sketchbook, and an art eraser. They will choose one best piece that they want to enter. That will be mounted and displayed in the gala with their name.
3) Open up and supervise the music room for practice and feedback times during recesses and lunch hours.
4) Enlist the older students as servers for the evening.
5) Get the help of parents to make h'orderves ahead of time and bring them to school on the date.
6) Have classes contribute class art projects to the gala displays.
7) Arrange for sound equipment and someone to do sound for the evening (we have the high school band teacher help out with this.)
8) Invite other schools to participate. Our high school student contribute both art and performances for the evening.
Finally, the preparation is done. It's time to sit back, and watch the students fly! It really is inspiring!
Listen to Ms. Barnes in action! Here she is working (playing and providing harmony) with a young student, inspiring her to love music and performing.