Things learned by skipping school
Posted on December 18th, 2012
he curtain fell on Marcel’s holiday play over the weekend.
It was such fun. There was family in town especially for the show and everyone drank eggnog together after opening night. It seemed like the temperature even dropped in the spirit of the season. The cast sang Feliz Navidad twice at the last show, I kid you not.
To participate in all of the performances, though, we needed to make arrangements for him to be out of school for a couple of days. Teachers were e-mailed, assignments were moved up or around so that Marcel didn’t see the inside of his middle school after last Wednesday.
But today I found myself sitting in a meeting with a teacher about Marcel in which his science class placement for the coming year was discussed.
‘Oh, he’s suited for it,’ she said quickly of one particular class, ‘but he’s a busy guy and there’s a lot of work in there.’
A busy guy, indeed; she was referring to our decision to pull him out of school for two days in order to be a part of the showsthat were open to other school children. I smiled and nodded but only because it was in Marcel’s best interests to do so—and because I knew he’d be placed in the class he was supposed to be in.
An education takes you to all sorts of places and it signifies a failure of imagination, I think, this inability to recognize the altogether weird but authentic places where you can learn about yourself.
Spaces without desks or walls or a teacher, even.
Six-plus weeks of rehearsals were a not-insignificant inconvenience for our family and, just a day out from the last performance, I can tell you that the arguments against a child making a commitment to any extracurricular activity this time-consuming have never sounded so reasonable. But you know what? By doing this play, Marcel had an opportunity to sing his first solo. He found out that he liked to dance. He met a playwright. He even got paid—his first check ever, for 50 whole dollars, for being responsible and working hard.
And in exchange for all of those experiences he had to miss two days of sixth grade science?
With the play over, the machinery of the season will begin to engage in earnest. That’s alright. There’s been eggnog and a brother in to visit and Marcel, thinking hard about what he did and didn’t like about the project he helped complete with so many others. So many gifts already, you’ll forgive me for feeling like Christmas is already underway.∗