PAPER PLANE

Christina Adams

This week has been Talent Week at our school. Every lunchtime, our auditorium has been filled with young performers (and a small number of teachers) keen to strut their stuff in front of the school for the chance to appear in full colour in the school magazine and take home a trophy and a JB Hi-Fi voucher. The acts have been varied, but the one thing they have all had in common is their enthusiasm and willingness to give it a go.

As a judge for the week, I have sat amongst an audience of barely contained spectators, all of whom have paid 50 cents for the privilege of cheering on their friends or “that kid from year 8 who sings really well”.

“Go Brianna! Woooooo!”
“You’ve got this!”
“We love you!”

Brianna has prepared a Pink song and is grasping the microphone so tightly I can almost see her knuckles through her skin from the judging table. The backing track starts and Brianna is frozen to the spot in contrast to her high-energy music; she is motionless, but then she starts. Her voice kicks in, softly at first, but then it grows.

Brian, a maths teacher, who was roped in to judge at the last minute when Jane, the dance teacher, had to go home with a migraine, turns to me and nods, impressed.

“I have Brianna for maths. I had no idea she could sing like that.”

The audience starts to clap in time to the song and Brianna’s confidence sky-rockets. Strategically stationed staff throughout the auditorium can concentrate on the performance rather than tapping chatty kids on the shoulder or asking them to leave for smuggling in food and drinks — everyone is transfixed.

As the performance ends, the space is filled with screams and whoops and loud applause. Then, as the student MCs thank Brianna, loud guffaws and snorts begin to build as students spot the next act — a group of PE teachers who are dressed in fluoro leg warmers, headbands and shorts. They burst onto the stage.

“Mr Wilkinson, can you please tell the crowd what you guys from the PE office are going to be performing?”

“Yes, Dylan, I’m glad you asked. Today, Miss Reilly, Mr Todd and I will be dancing to the classic Olivia Newton John hit, ‘Let’s Get Physical’. This choreography has taken months — I mean minutes — to perfect, and I think we’re a definite shot at the big trophy today.”

“Okay everyone, let’s give it for the PE Crew and their act, ‘Let’s Get Physical’!”

This time, the kids are loud and chatty as their teachers deliver a very loosely choreographed act. Greg, the principal, slips in from his meeting with an irate parent and joins in the throng of applause and screams. And as I look around I remember that this is what being in a school should be about; a sense of community and belonging. Sometimes that’s the most important lesson of all.

Christina Adams is a member of the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian