Screams of Terror by Peggy Bogaard-Lapp
School is in …. seems like it should be an easy transition, but it has been difficult to go from lazy days and free time to alarm clocks and busy days. Since Monday, the emotions of the whole family have been happy, glad, frustrated, angry, and exhausted. Since I work at Erica’s school, we both felt the screeching halt of summer. The first day of school was full of excitement, seeing friends, sharing summer vacation stories, and showing off our new clothes. The next day, the excitement had already gone, and the realization comes that there are 184 days in front of us until summer break comes back around.
Already we have the packet of information about what to expect during the coming year – homework, class projects, performances. The fifth grade performance is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, appropriately scheduled for late October. Every student has a speaking part, and there are several songs that they all will sing. To my complete surprise, Erica is interested in trying out for a “speaking part” which has several (up to 14) lines. Last night she practiced the lines for Bessie Wheelwright, the harried schoolteacher who is fed up with the horrible children and quits in a huff, leaving the open position to Ichabod Crane to fill. Erica stood in front of us in the living room, trying out different ways to show the frustration of Miss Wheelwright. I told her to think back to the substitute teachers she has had over the years and how they struggled with the class. The opening line starts with a “scream of terror” which I’m sure many substitute teachers can relate to. However, it’s more like a scream of anguish, when you realize that you are outnumbered and the students have the edge over you knowing how the routine goes. Many times I have overheard students trying to tell the substitute “we have recess now” or “I think Mrs. Smith wants us to play with the Legos now.” Many times I think the sub has given in, simply because it was the easiest, and I don’t blame them a bit.
There are many students who are very good at acting, and I don’t know how many will try out for the Bessie Wheelwright part, but I really hope Erica follows through and at least auditions. She was very disappointed last year when she was not chosen for the Talent Show, and several of the students who were chosen had repeat acts from the previous year. As an arts focused school, the staff wants to choose the best and I understand that, but a talent show is an informal performance that highlights each student doing what they like. I admit Erica’s performance was not structured or even well rehearsed, but it shouldn’t always be the same kids every year, especially those who have done tap dance since they were four – those kids have already had several chances to perform. Anyway, I hope Erica doesn’t lose the desire to try, because after not being chosen several times it’s only natural for her to stop trying. In the meantime, I’m willing to listen to the “cries of terror” of Bessie Wheelwright. At least it’s not “Three Blind Mice” practiced on the recorder for over two months!