Leadership and courage presents itself in the most unusual ways and normally in the most stressful of times. Such was the case when a young man, before my very eyes, stepped out of the common crowd among his peers and placed himself directly in the lime light center stage as it were. I am proud to have been witness to it.
The day was a recent one in a local Intermediate School that I was functioning as a guest teacher or substitute for the day. I had chosen the class because of it description and age group. The class, Drama and Theatre, the age group, sixth and seventh grade. I have always loved drama and theatre because the people involved are normally very outgoing, intelligent, and eccentric. Yes, the exact type people I enjoy being with.
On this particular day as part of the teachers lesson plan was an activity called “Improv”. For those not familiar with drama and theatre, an Improv Activity involves students on stage acting out parts they are making up as they go. There is an identified control person who manages the activity to maintain order. Once the acting begins the control person periodically will yell, “ freeze”. At which time the actors all freeze in place and another actor takes their exact place on stage and then the acting continues with a “resume” command from the control. The actors themselves determine the plot and they do this without script. They just make it up as they go and it can be very funny because each actor’s thoughts, mood, and talent come out in the most unexpected ways.
On this particular day I had begun the activity with the acting queue of, “fishing”. The acting began and the action lagged for a while. The students not comfortable with fishing quickly turned to violence on stage. Yelling, mock assault, chasing one another, conflict of every kind occurred time and time again.
It seems that the challenges of maturity in these grades, the emergence of unfamiliar hormone’s both testosterone and estrogen, the difficulties of honestly interacting with each other, and the fact that our students are constantly bombarded with violence is represented with their comfort levels. They are comfortable with violence and can easily act it out. After several stop and restarts which I intended to steer toward a story line and away from senseless violence, but they, the actors, would continue to gravitate back toward it. That is until the unexpected happened.
The act on stage involved two young ladies and they were acting as if in a Knights Court. A King Arthur type setting where a good Knight was to be rewarded for gallantry in battle by the Queen. The good Knight was kneeling on one knee before the Queen who stood before the good Knight, sword drawn and about to bestow some Knighthood honor when the control yelled, “Freeze.”
At this the next actor in line was a young man who ambled on stage and assumed the kneeling position before his Queen. Now, with the change in gender came a change in the interaction and direction of the script if there had been one. The controller yelled, “Resume.” At which the Queen just stood there looking at this young man kneeling before her. I was expecting a return to violence with a scream by the Queen; “off with his head” or such. But what followed surprised all including me.
The young man placed his hands together like he was holding a small box in both hands while kneeling on one knee before his female counter part. He looked up to his Queen with pleading eyes and said in a clear voice before all to see and hear. “Will you be my Valentine?”
At this there was a dead silence in the class room as the audience of peers evaluated what they had just seen. A shocked expression appeared on the Queens’ face. Her continued attempt to be the cool and collected teen she had just been was challenged in those five words. After a brief moment the class erupted in laughter and cheering for our brave Knight and his gallant effort to secure his Valentine. I found myself laughing cheering and giving applause to the young Knight.
“Freeze”, the controller yelled again as the Queen took a tentative step backward. Was this acting? Was it real? What should she do now right before her peers? These thoughts raced across the Queen’s face in expression. Her facial details had betrayed her thoughts. Although no sound of voice escaped her, watching the shy smile spread across her face the answer was given; “Yes, Sir Knight!”
Well done my young friend, you have the courage of a thousand…