It is hard to overstate the importance of the grade-level plays and the other public presentations we have here at James River Day School. The learning occurring in the process, which culminates in the plays you see, is extensive. I will use the recent 4th grade play as an example. Even though it’s been a week since I saw it, I am still excited.
Mrs. Paddy Braunstein is a key to why these plays are so amazing. She will take a standard script and then customize it based on input from the students. She listens to the kids--really listens--and then incorporates their ideas into the play. With Paddy’s encouragement and guidance, the kids add new characters. This then requires them to come up with a modified script incorporating the new characters. These changes impact the choreography and blocking, so the students work on those things as well.
The play becomes theirs. They are proud of what they have created, and they each have their very own special part. The enthusiasm and the confidence this generates in the students is palpable. Paddy’s approach makes so much sense when one hears her talk about it and when seeing the performances, yet her style of directing is unique.
The ability to speak or perform in public is an important life skill, and James River makes it a priority. The ability to work within a larger group is an essential life skill, and this, too, is a priority. Being creative and thinking ‘outside the box’ are also traits we wish to nurture. And with Paddy’s methods, the kids learn these skills and have fun at the same time!
Tonight, we’ll enjoy another play, this time staged by the kindergarten and first grade students under the able direction of Leigh Berkley. I’m looking forward to seeing it and watching how Leigh helps her students overcome any shyness or stage fright to become performers.
That is what is so special about our emphasis on public speaking and performing -- the children learn so much about their own capabilities. They learn they can get up in front of an audience, and they build the confidence necessary to do it well. This confidence carries over into the classrooms as students learn to speak up to share knowledge and ask questions. At an early age, we set our students on course to become excellent speakers. Because of this our graduates are known in the area high schools for being leaders in the classrooms, playing fields, and community.