For many, the littlest performers stole the show Ecole Cobble Hill’s annual winter concert in the school gym on Dec. 10. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Sarah Simpson Column: Cowichan school concerts have me feeling merry

I was at the gym the other day chatting with the ladies before our class began and one admitted she’s almost “all merried out.” That was with roughly two weeks to go until Christmas!

I get it. There’s so much to do, so much to clean, presents to buy, to wrap and not to mention work to wrap up so that we might be able to get away from the office long enough to try to enjoy watching the kids unwrap the stuff that we spent so much time wrapping up in the first place.

It can all make your head spin.

(And yes, we do try to teach the children that it’s about presence not presents.)

The reality is, holidays are stressful, so I identified with my gym friend. In truth though, I wasn’t too stressed. I had a good handle on my shopping, most of our plans are in place so I felt like I had things under control. The one thing I didn’t really feel, though, was “merry”.

Living away from my mom and sister, for me, historically, it hasn’t really felt like Christmas until I am “home” on the Mainland with them and that part of my family. I’ve learned to put Christmas on hold until I get off the ferry on the other side.

This year I feel things changing though because my kids are a bit older and therefore more aware. But that’s only part of it. This year, my burgeoning Christmas spirit has been brought to me by teachers. Literal school teachers.

It began when I was assigned to go photograph the École Cobble Hill winter concert a while back and, being the first year I have a child in school (not that school mind you), I saw the school’s presentation in a new light.

It certainly wasn’t the public performance situation I dreaded when I was a student. It was no longer just the uncomfortable-sitting-on-the-floor-for-an-hour-trying-to-photograph-through-shadows situation I face annually as a reporter/photographer. I finally saw it for what it was: a bunch of nervous but smiling students trying their very best to make the audience filled with their loved ones proud, and a bunch of smiling teachers in the background, also filled with pride but secretly wringing their hands, worrying about whether or not things will go as planned.

I found myself being proud of the kids and I didn’t even know who they were. It’s because I watched the teachers and how hard they worked to support their students and the pride, so evident on their faces.

Obviously my joy for these schoolchildren was no match for the pride of their parents, (I was able to feel that delight when I watched my kindergartener at his own school’s concert) but all of a sudden I understood. It wasn’t a burden to go sit through school concerts. It was my honour.

I ended up watching three shows throughout the valley. One in particular that stood out for me was the winter concert at Drinkwater school. The principal explained that primary music teacher Ms. Espeseth was forced into action when her co-director Mr. Poole was unexpectedly unable to attend school the week of the big show. Despite having not practised with a large number of the classes performing, Espeseth stepped in and took the reins, delivering perfectly for the students on Mr. Poole’s behalf — because that’s just what teachers do.

Teachers seem to be able to roll with the punches, and guide their students over any hurdles that come about while still tailoring the experience to the needs of each child. What’s more, they do it all with a smile. (OK, and the odd sideways look and knowing shrug when they lock eyes with another teacher but I don’t think we are supposed to see that).

In short, I want to be more like the teachers. They make life so special for our kids.

After the three concerts I attended, I felt a lot merrier. (It does help that my son keeps coming home from school with Christmas-themed art every day.)

Even if I wanted to wait until we got to the Mainland, it’s not even an option now. Through the experiences my kindergartener is having at school every day, I can tell you that nowadays, my house is most certainly merry.

So, I would like to thank the teachers. Thank you! Oh, and Merry Christmas!



sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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