It’s musical season at our school. Because the pavilion is outside, I have to have all five of my musicals/plays in the stretch of two months. I watch the weather like a hawk. Not too cold, but not too hot, God. A gentle breeze would be nice; please no forty-mile-an-hour gusts like that one year. And please, God, don’t let it rain. When it rains, I have to move a play, and they’re already back-to-back!
At the point of writing this, I have three done and two to go. The PK, JrK, and K did their musical in a balmy 42°, and two weeks later, the 1st and 2nd graders sweated their musical out in 90° heat. But, just like Goldilock’s inevitably “just right” third option, the 3rd – 5th graders had a gentle breeze and 70’s.
There have been many hours spent on sets and costuming. (I provide nearly all costumes because parents get competitive when it comes to costuming.) I find that my best progress is made a day or two out from the play. That fits, right? We gifted procrastinate, right?
So, if I do it, why do I get so uptight that even my littlest actors wait till the last minute to memorize their lines? Two days before this last play, I was literally feeding each and every line – word-for-word, mind you – to the cast. It was painful at best. Yet, when the performance came, they were fantastic. Did I mention that those 3rd – 5th graders did a ninety-minute musical meant for high school actors? They were fantastic, and I cued very few lines.
Even though it drives planners crazy, gifted people actually respond beautifully to pressure and deadlines. I’ve been doing musicals and plays with these kids for fifteen years now, and they have yet to disappoint me. I tell them at the conclusion of an abysmal dress rehearsal, “I’m not worried. You’re gifted and you like to succeed. There’s no way you are going to fail in front of an audience.” And, they succeed.
Over the years, I’ve learned to place the dress rehearsal two days before the actual event. This does two things: 1) Those planners who memorized their lines early ride the ones who don’t know their lines like crazy. “Can I help you?” “Do you have them yet?” 2) After seeing that their approach did in fact cause them to fail, most do not want that same experience in front of a crowd of witnesses. I say most, but I have literally only had one student who still didn’t get the message and blew his lines throughout the play. His mother thought it was funny. Hmmm.
If you are the parent of a gifted child, take the advice on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Don’t Panic. I know you’d prefer that your child not wait till the last minute and hold everyone else’s schedule hostage to get that project done, but more often than not, that’s exactly how things are going to go. Can’t take it? Plan for it then. When you know a major project is due, clear a couple of hours that night before. He can hold that schedule hostage all he wants! Need to collect data throughout, say for a science fair? Post a schedule of “data-collecting” days with a consequence for not fulfilling them and make it due an hour before bed time. I’m telling you, it’s not that we don’t want to do the work. We just don’t want to do it yet.
We have often called gifted people the “jack of all trades and masters of none” in these articles. I think it’s the resourcefulness of gifted people that cause them to respond so well to pressure. So, the next time you’re tempted to spout some talking head’s latest warning about the effects of stress on junior, remember that your gifted tyke actually responds quite well to it… within reason, of course!