On the evening of Saturday, Feb. 27, I spent the most delightful of evenings, enjoying a live performance of the musical, “The Lion King Jr.”
Having seen this play on a New York Broadway stage many years ago, I knew what to expect in terms of storyline. I even knew what the costuming would be like. However, I was much surprised by the beauty of seeing more than 500 elementary school students participating in a two-plus hour performance (with intermission) on stage at the Clayton Performing Arts Center. All of the children were in costume, all sang or danced in unison and those who had lines to speak, did so perfectly!
As I watched the performance, all I could think of was how much work the teachers and staff of the Jackson Elementary School put in to such a production. But I believe the most important part of what I observed was how brilliant these young people were growing in this art form – they were getting smarter, learning to be more confident in themselves and their classmates, and they were learning that hard work does pay off.
They had to learn and memorize the writers’ lines, they had to remember when to enter stage left, stage right and when to exit.
There were even more students involved in the set design and costuming, which is a whole other experience for students. Set design meant they had to learn to build, using hammers and nails, painting and selecting colors that would depict the African countryside, and they were learning how to craft a wardrobe for the characters in the musical.
As a former educator, I could only feel pride in the fact that the arts, and this art form in particular, was teaching students how to improve their memories, their writing and their confidence in their ability to learn anything they wanted or needed to learn. For me, this translated into great grades in the classroom and the confidence to know what good work really feels like.
Before I left, I spoke to the principal, Dr. Donna Jackson, and also our county superintendent, Ms. Luvenia Jackson, who had brought her granddaughter to see the play. I just wanted them to know what a great performance I had witnessed and how much I enjoyed watching our children – Clayton County Public Schools children – perform!
Enjoying this evening of children acting in a musical was in stark contrast to a meeting I attended on earlier that week where our state Representative, Sandra Scott, sponsored a symposium for community people to learn more about the governor’s plan to “take over schools for their performance.”
I wanted to add my voice to the fact that great things are happening in our schools for our children. You must get out there and see for yourselves. We have great teachers and staff who care about making certain the children are learning, and yes, that test scores are going up!
Dr. Barbara Pulliam, former superintendent of Clayton County Public Schools