If you had the chance to see Annie on the Matthews Hall stage this week, you will have been reminded of the inspiring message it conveys – that, if hope and optimism are alive in one’s heart, even a child can face the darkest of times with courage and humanity. Based on Little Orphan Annie, the popular 1920s comic strip by Harold Gray, Annie has been a staple of musical theatre programs in schools everywhere. It was a pleasure to share its fun and positive message with students and families this year.
Have you ever been involved in a school play (especially a musical!)? If so, you will remember the all-encompassing experience it becomes and the demands it puts on the actors who bring stories to life. Among all the co-curricular opportunities students can pursue, taking part in a school production at any age will be a lasting memory and one that is filled with important learning – about self and others. There is no question that the cast and crew of this year’s production will remember their experiences long after they have forgotten everything else they “learned” in school. It’s why school is about so much more than books and homework!
If the ultimate goal of education is to learn how to live a happy and meaningful life, then our children’s experience during their elementary years is more than assignments and tests. While building a firm foundation in reading, writing, and arithmetic is essential, there are so many other things to learn and being involved in a play like Annie is a chance to do just that.
What are some of the “lessons” that our students might have learned from their involvement in Annie this year? There are many, but here are just a few:
Stay optimistic, but remember that life is tough. Occasionally, life offers some hard-knocks, but how we deal with them makes a world of difference. Our kids need to learn to keep their chins up and realize that most setbacks are only temporary.
Avoid toxic people. This is easier said than done because sometimes toxic people exist powerfully in our midst. Our kids need to learn never to allow them to break their spirits, as they learn tolerance, patience, and unconditional love – and remain true to themselves.
Be kind to all creatures. Whether it’s toxic people or furry lost strays, children need to learn to love all creatures unconditionally. You never know what tragedies or inner battles “the creatures” in our lives have faced to make them the way they are. Wouldn’t it be great if kids everywhere could learn to look past the scruffy, sad (and sometimes bristly!) exteriors of the people around them and see the beauty within?
Strive for work-life balance. All work and no play made Daddy Warbucks a dull billionaire, but with the help of a warm-spirited orphan, he began to see the world in a whole new way. In our over-scheduled worlds, we often do the same. Our children can become so consumed with the world’s “version of success” that they forget to live life to its fullest. It’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to prioritize unscheduled downtime in our families.
As we prepare to enjoy some downtime during a beautiful spring weekend (…and time with our moms on Mothers’ Day!), we may be juggling schedules, commitments, and burdens. If that’s the case, let’s all take a page out of Little Orphan Annie’s playbook and remember that the sun will come out tomorrow.
And please always remember and don’t ever forget: this life we are living is not a dress rehearsal!
Ric Anderson, Head of School