So the project officially, I suppose, finished today. We performed the play; no more rehearsals, retakes, rewrites, descension into giggles (ok, maybe one or two of those), squabbling, painting, etc. We performed once in school, last block, to which I invited teachers to bring their classes, and which the superintendent and principal, as well as one assistant principal and maybe six or seven teachers without their classes, attended; there were maybe 70 or so people there. And then maybe 20 friends and family members at the 5.30 show this evening, as well as two other teachers.

I see, especially recently, frequent exhortations to ‘go outside of your comfort zone’ or ‘get uncomfortable’, and I’m pretty sure I checked that one off my list today. Especially for the afternoon show (largely, I suspect, because there were more people and more variables (mid-day for students, first time through, etc.) I was more nervous, I would say, than I have been in quite a while. And nervous is one of those emotions / feelings that I certainly don’t like to admit I ever feel.

With that said, both shows went well. I think the evening show had a bit more sympathetic audience, because it was largely parents, i.e. we got more laughs when we were supposed to, or perhaps better hoped to, get laughs, and the afternoon show was bigger but was perhaps expecting a bit more traditional (or successful) humor. As our drama director said to some of the actors on the way out, the moments they were improv-ing were their funniest (and he didn’t mean it in a mean way).

From an educational standpoint, and I’ll talk more about this in the coming weeks, but I did want to get a fresh, only-me take down before I start the debrief and review process with my class, this project has raised all sorts of compelling pedagogical questions. In no particular order, and with further explication coming:

  • The play was a success from an engagement standpoint; the students bought in more than I expected them to. But does engagement alone equal success or pedagogical value? There is a yes argument to be made, that engaged students approach what they do with a primed engine, and that they will absorb whatever they are learning, even if it is more intangible, more deeply and more easily than content that is presented to them in a way with which they are not (as) engaged. But…
  • What exactly did they learn? They were engaged, but what are their actual takeaways? And even if those takeaways are valuable, or at least not invaluable, are they worthwhile replacements for content and/or specific skills (albeit content and/or specific skills that they might not have learned as readily or as long-term-y because they weren’t engaged in the same way)?
  • How should they be assessed? The easy-but-so-complicated answer is that they shouldn’t be, that they were engaged throughout the process and they produced a viable final project. If I could just pass them all I would, but that of course doesn’t quite translate into our grading system. And there were maybe between 2 and 4 students that I worried had distanced themselves slightly from the process in a way that made me wonder how I would / should handle that in the future, but they were not so distanced that I felt it negatively impacted the project or their participation in or appreciation of it.
  • Speaking of the future, will I do this next year? This class seemed particularly willing to undertake this project. I’d like to take credit for that but am realistic enough to know that my role in their engagement was likely relatively minor. We had a good combination of skills, personalities, and interests and that produced a good process and product. But is that good process and product a requirement for undertaking this? Is the project still valuable if a class does not buy in as much? does not produce as good (or a good at all) final product?
  • This year, for a first attempt, I was very careful to ensure commitment; I did not want to undertake this without the class’ commitment. I wanted this to be their project rather than mine. Can I or should I take the same approach next year? Is the project dependent more on my commitment to it or their commitment to it? And should that matter?

So those are some of the questions that I’ve been thinking about throughout this process. Would love to hear thoughts / input / feedback. I include here too some pictures I took from the afternoon performance.

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