Arkansas Schools Tour 2011 - The Poe Show
Morgan: Driving through the state of Arkansas is remarkable…for so many reasons. First off, Arkansas is arguably the most beautiful state in America. My eyes are drunk with the beauty of the fall foliage. Everywhere you look there is a scenic view even more stunning than the last. We’re unbelievably lucky to call Arkansas our home.
I also feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to bring my passion for theatre and literature to students directly. TheatreSquared’s education outreach mission allows us to build partnerships with teachers throughout the state. This tour (which will hit 22 different schools in 11 days) has a wide geographic reach.We'll travel as far north as Mountain Home and Valley Springs, as far south as El Dorado, as far East as Helena and as far west as Lavaca. Some of towns have large populations and some are tiny. Some have been sheltered from current economic conditions, and some are in areas that are deeply economically depressed.
We are truly seeing the educational conditions of the state “up close and personal."
So far, we've had a great reception from each of the schools we’ve visited. The students are thrilled to be getting out of the traditional classroom for an hour, but beyond that, they seem truly excited by the fact that some “outsiders” are interested enough to come to them where they live. One thing that does not come as a surprise—but that is being proven over and over again—is that the students are just as receptive to new experiences as their teachers and administrators are. There are some schools that welcome a non-traditional approach. The students are primed for our creative style of learning and will carry an extraordinary amount away from the experience. There are other schools that have invited us in but think that our visit is somewhat dangerous. They feel that the students are not ready to process information presented in a unique way. They feel that classroom time is so precious that any deviation from the normal schedule should be guarded carefully. I appreciate their concerns because teachers are held accountable for test scores, and it must be difficult to think outside the box under that kind of constant pressure.
It is amazing, though, how one teacher’s attitude (either positive or negative) can truly influence the attitude of an entire school. When there is a teacher who is engaged with the students and truly invested in their education (rather than just the benchmarks of their education), the classroom becomes a magical place where learning is exciting. Students explore their imaginations and creativity….and it is exciting to be near. We are inspired by what we are seeing in the schools. Some are thriving under the leadership of visionaries. Some need more work than we could have ever suspected. This tour is less than a week old—and what we are learning is almost overwhelming. I’m so thrilled to be on this ride. I know that the journey is providing vital information that will aid us as we continue to shape TheatreSquared educational programs.