With some of my handsome boys before the show!
I. Am. So. Proud. My Block Institute kiddos performed their play last week after only four short weeks of Thursday and Friday drama class, and the progress made by most of the students is absolutely astounding. This was my first time developing and implementing curriculum for students with developmental disabilities, and though I had done my research and understood how beneficial arts education is to ANY student, I was a bit nervous going in.
My schedule consisted of 10 drama classes in a 5 hour shift, because I'll be honest, I can't say no to a class who wants to take drama, even if it means working through my lunch break. The students ranged in age between 4-7, and on the very first day I fell in love with each and every single one of them. Despite challenges of every possible variety, throughout the duration of our work together, EVERY child made progress, which I do not assume to take credit for-- drama has this universal, welcoming and familiar quality that fosters incredible personal development.
Non-verbal kids started joining in to our vocal warm-ups. Kids who started the program sitting in the corner with an aide ended up in the center of the circle for our physical warm-ups. Kids who seemed completely disengaged and unwilling to connect would jump in to correct me if I forgot a part of the play. And, most importantly for me, the teachers who knew these kids best commented on their progress. Last Friday, as I watched them take the stage and tell the story we had learned together, I was absolutely stunned to think that this was the same group I had started with four weeks earlier. They patiently waited for their turns. They didn't yell out when someone was talking. They paid attention to the action of the story, and gently helped other students who forgot what came next. The practice of drama, I've found, has the inevitable effect of making the participants into more conscientious individuals. And they were excited and happy. What more could I have asked for?