2 a : to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction b : to provide with information : inform
How much of education is an act of following? Yesterday afternoon, I went with A to see Nashville Ballet's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Before the ballet started, the Artistic Director came on to say a few words and announce that next year's season will begin with a full length Swan Lake and end with Carmina Burana. A immediately turned to me and said, "Can we subscribe? I want to go!" I merely smiled and encouraged her to keep listening, but as the curtain rose, I thought about how having A as a daughter has educated me on the ins and outs of ballet in a way I surely would never have known on my own.
Would I have found myself sitting in TPAC's Jackson Hall watching A Midsummer Night's Dream if I didn't have A for a daughter? Maybe, but it's not likely. J certainly would not have been interested in joining me. A play? OK. An orchestra performance? Definitely. A ballet? Is our daughter in it? By contrast, A soaks it up. Her eyes did not leave the stage from the moment the curtain went up until the moment it went down. I bought season tickets to Giselle and A Midsummer Night's Dream more for A than anything. She's obviously seen The Nutcracker, but I thought she would enjoy seeing other professional productions and this season's offerings seemed particularly well suited for her.
Interestingly, a book that I read recently made me decide that A and I should study a Shakespearean play together next year. (If other fifth graders can do it, why can't mine? And it fits perfectly with the historical time period we'll be covering!) When I asked her last week what play we should do, the first one she suggested was Midsummer or Hamlet (neither of which had made it onto my mental short list). At the time, I told her I wasn't sure Midsummer was a great choice. It can be a confusing play. Who loves Hermia? Lysander loves whom? And who is the guy walking around with a donkey head? But yesterday's performance was very easy to follow. I left thinking that maybe the best choice we could make would be to study the play and compare it to the ballet interpretation. So I told A that she can read six synopses of Shakespeare's plays and pick one for us to study. We'll do whatever she chooses.
Yesterday makes me excited to teach A more broadly next year. On our walk to meet J after the performance, we compared and contrasted The Nutcracker and A Midsummer Night's Dream. We talked about the different skill sets dancers needed to perform in each one (technical dance skills versus theatrical skills), then talked about which of the dancers in her own ballet class best embodied each type of dance. My daughter clearly doesn't mindlessly watch a ballet production. In fact, she probably notices things that escape my untrained eye.
I learned a lot yesterday - from the ballet and from following A's lead. When I started writing this post (during intermission yesterday), I didn't know that the etymology of educate is educere: to lead forth. A lead yesterday and I learned from the experience. It's my hope that next year will find us alternately leading and following each other through fifth grade. There are many things I can learn from trying to see the world through my daughter's eyes and maybe she can learn a thing or two from me as well.
My very own garden fairy, dressed for The Nutcracker