I started writing music when I was around twelve. My current record company saw a video of me performing at my school’s talent show.
Lorde has an amazing voice for someone so young. I love her music. To think she got her break through a school talent show is quite unbelievable, but not impossible.
As a teacher, I have been subjected to a large number of school talent shows, or talent quests. I say ‘subjected’ because, for the most part, they are long and cringeworthy.
Most kids love them though!
And, what it all boils down to is the fact it takes a bucketload of confidence to get up on the stage and sing a song, play an instrument or do a stand-up routine or skit in front of all of your peers.
Isn’t that what schools should be about? Building confidence?
With this thought playing in my mind, it surprised me somewhat to hear some schools are ‘not encouraging’ talent quests.
Because talent quests only encourage the children ‘who can’ rather than celebrating all students.
To be honest, my first reaction (as a teacher) was ‘YAY!’
Talent quests take up an insane amount of time: preparation, auditions, scheduling time for performers (often over several weeks). They also generate an unbelievable amount of stress: fights between peers, helicopter parents, timetabling (because we still have to fit everything else in).
I have known some talent quests to take up the better part of the term, both in class and out of class.
Surely we are better off without them?
But then it dawned on me: for some children, the chance to perform in a talent quest may be their only chance to shine.
I have sat in on talent quests, watching children who are (let’s be honest) a nightmare in class because of behaviour or who struggle academically in a big way — then they open their mouths to sing, or start to play their instrument and totally blow me away. Everyone has one thing they excel at, and for some children it is the ability to sing or perform in some other way.
If we take away the ‘talent quest’ we may never have the opportunity to learn about that child’s talent. Yes, there are other ways they can show it, but will they? Probably not.
Following this I got to thinking about all of the other extra-curricula activities schools do which take up class time, are not part of the curriculum at all and only encourage the children who can:
♦ sport teams
All students do PE lessons, but only a select few participate in school representative sport teams or ‘special sport days’. Does this celebrate all students? Not by a long shot.
♦ ICAS and other academic competitions
Anybody can enter these (just like a talent quest), but not everybody does (just like a talent quest). Academic competitions only celebrate the academically inclined kids.
♦ in-school writing (or art or whatever) competitions
Yes, these are often completed by all the students, but if it’s a competition, then you can guarantee it will only celebrate the ‘students who can’.
♦ performances of any nature which have limited parts and/or require audition (this includes plays, music, choirs and, to a certain extent, some assembly performances)
Unless the choir is something everyone can join no matter how poor their singing voice, then all performances definitely only celebrate the children who can.
♦ any type of ‘special day’ which requires dressing up or making something, and involves prizes of any description (think Book Week Parades, Easter Hat Parades, Science Fairs etc.)
Again, everyone can be involved, but if the event involves prizes then it really only celebrates the children (or parents) who can.
♦ school leadership opportunities (these include school captains, SRC, house captains etc)
Without a doubt these opportunities are vitally important for children as they get older. They also teach children that not everybody gets what they want. BUT I cannot remember the last time a shy, non-sporty (or academic), unpopular, poorly behaved or special needs child got voted into one of these positions. Some children go through their entire school life without experiencing a leadership role (and not for the lack of trying to gain one). Again, are we only celebrating the children who can?
I may be grasping at straws or being unreasonable with some of these examples, but I am trying to make a point. If one activity is not encouraged or condoned because it doesn’t celebrate and involve everyone then:
a) there will be children who have no other opportunities to shine
b) we should also be cutting out all of the other activities that don’t celebrate everyone. After all, who has the right to choose what is important and what isn’t?
None of this means I now love talent quests. I don’t, and I won’t be fighting to have them reinstated into our schools. But, I do believe we should be about ensuring there are avenues and opportunities for ALL of our children to shine and develop their confidence in some way.