Our after-school portion of the Northlight On Campus (NOC) collaboration with Fairview South School in Skokie started on Monday, Nov. 15 with 25 students participating. We are offering the program on Monday afternoons which is lovely because it’s the early release day for students. This means that (1) there are no other after-school activities that day, and (2) teachers are required to stay on campus that afternoon. So, we are in a position to have the undivided attention of our students, and the ability to have teachers drop in and visit us.
A bit of background on the program: We wanted to give an underserved suburban school free theatre programming that would impact every student in grades 6-8 over the course of 2 years on campus. The reality of Fairview’s situation – and it is a common reality for a number of junior high and middle schools in our area – is that the school has not had any theatre programming for students in over 15 years. Also, their students filter into a high school with a very strong theatre program, so their 8th graders are arriving as freshmen unprepared. We wanted to make sure that there was exposure to professional theatre and opportunities for students to get involved in theatre arts on campus.
Off the bat, what surprised me about Fairview was the interest of the teachers. I met with five teachers and the principal before we started the program, and they were all encouraging of our collaboration. They asked how they could get involved and if they could observe our teaching artists to learn from their work. The level of kindness and curiosity on the part of the faculty is humbling. We are forging important relationships not just with the students, but with the faculty, and that is incredibly rewarding. We had three teachers and the principal observe the first day of NOC. It was the best kind of observation. They were there to encourage and support the students. The teachers proudly pointed out students who needed this outlet for their creativity. I did not anticipate that the lack of theatre programming had not only been impacting the students but the teachers as well.
I look forward to seeing how this relationship develops with such engaged teachers. It has become a new goal to create more opportunities for teachers to get involved in our programming. I have not worked with a school where so many faculty members are eager to collaborate with us, so I want to make sure we seize this opportunity.