Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Nutcracker! (or: Men in Tights)

Happy New Year! If you can't read his headgear, the dog is also wishing you a happy New Year.

I chaperoned a field trip right before Christmas - we took the kids to the Nutcracker. I was thrilled to not be the person actually in charge, so it was a fun day for me! Trips are much more fun when I'm not the one in charge of figuring out how we're going to get there, pay for it, not kill each other, and get home with everyone still in the group.

The principal started off by being his charming self. Mrs. Dwyer set up the field trip and got people to donate the tickets as well as their time - she actually got enough drivers to take the whole class downtown. The teacher was very organized about getting everyone into the correct cars and keeping track of everyone. Mine was the second to last car to leave. As we were getting into my car, I saw the principal come over and talk to the teacher. Apparently he told her that he hadn't approved the field trip. Good timing, dude. Three fourths of the class is GONE and now he says he hasn't approved the field trip?

Except he was lying. The teacher had filled out the field trip request and the permission slip and clearly written that the kids would be transported by private cars. The principal had signed it - his signature was on each and every permission slip. He might want to start reading what he signs because apparently his problem was the traveling by car part, which he had approved.

The principal said that the kids couldn't go by car (it seemed to have escaped his notice that most of them were already gone). Not only could they not go by car, but in the history of the whole school, there has never been a field trip to which kids traveled by car.

This leads me to a few observations:
  1. The school is over 100 years old. Probably there has been a field trip that used car at some point. He does not, in fact, know about every field trip that has happened over the last 102 years.
  2. The only reason that most of the field trips are not by car is because the parents don't have cars - they're poor. It sounds horribly stereotypical, but many, perhaps most, of the families don't own cars and some that do are not licensed because they are not legally in the country. In the schools located in the nice parts of the city (the "hill schools"), almost all the field trips are by car. It is legal, sanctioned by the district, and encouraged. The only reason to not let our kids travel by car when we have found drivers is to continue to hold them back from the opportunities that the richer kids have. Not something the leader of the school should be doing.
  3. Who in their right mind tries to stop a field trip after most of the kids have already left? That's just dumb.
I think that he is aware that he is not dong a great job as principal and somehow trying to deal with that by seizing every bit of power that he can get his hands on. Just my theory.

Anyway, the ballet.

I must admit that I was a little worried about taking a bunch of inner-city kids to the ballet. I know these kids and I was afraid that it would take a lot more action and possibly violence to keep them interested. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Although there was some snickering when the first men in tights appeared on the stage (and honestly, who can blame them? The guys don't have pants on. Just tights. We're not even used to girls just wearing tights with nothing else.) , it turned to oohs and ahhs when the Christmas tree began growing, when the snow started falling, and when the scenery changed. The kids loved the costumes (minus the men's tights) and were very impressed with quick costume changes and scenery changes. The boy next to me kept saying, "How do they change the wallpaper so fast?" every time there was a scenery change.

I think it was just a little long for them but they seemed to really like it and did really really well with their normally very short attention spans. It was really awesome to see that it was magical for them - and the boys were impressed with how strong the men are! ("Did you see them lift those ladies?!" It almost made up for the tights.) Also, all the kids with us behaved well in the theater. Some other kids were talking and kicking chairs and our kids complained about them.

The one thing I definitely learned on this field trip (this isn't very profound; don't get excited) is that when there is a matinee on a school day of a show that is geared toward kids... everyone in the entire audience has to go to the bathroom during intermission. Seriously. It was amazing. I have never seen so many children in one bathroom. I think the intermission lasted extra long to accommodate all the small bladders.

The other really fun part was that the show was at the Paramount Theatre, an Art Deco theater from the early 1930s. So, if kids got bored, all you had to do was say, "Hey, look up! Look at the ceiling!" They had never been in a building that was anything like the Paramount.

A good field trip!


Jessamyn Harris said...

sounds so cute!
and, it's a little long even for me...

mm said...

The Paramount Theater!
And in the kids' own back yards!
What an experience.

mhsieh said...

love ballet. i'm so excited that east oakland kids got to enjoy something that they wouldn't normally get to see!

House Dreams said...

Thank heaven you made it happen!!

Yeah, people think that working in the inner city is scary because the community is so dangerous, but it is the administration that should be feared. Unbelievable the difference between the hills and the flats.

Talk about segregation.