How Not to do an Annual Day

Our girls have been on stage four times so far, for various dance performances. The first was back in May 2010 ( ), three months before they turned four. They were still too young, back then, but – despite all the chaos – they loved it. They loved being on stage. But that first time, I also discovered how incredibly tough it is on young children, if it is not sensitively and sensibly handled.


Six months later, they were back on stage, and this time things were much better organized. One advantage was that, this time, most of the performers were in their teens and there were very few tiny tots. Also, the staff-to-tinty-tots ratio was better and the staff and tiny tots actually knew each other. Still – things would have been even better if the organizers had put the tiny tots on first, especially considering it was an evening performance and the tiny tots had been on an adrenaline high practically the whole day.


In 2012, Tara opted to join the daycare dance class, which culminated in a small show. This was a sweet and cozy affair organized by their daycare at the daycare itself. It was clearly not up to our young artiste’s high standards, not having a proper stage and lights and curtain and whatnot… but it was a simple, light-hearted, low cost affair and apart from Tara, the rest of us enjoyed it.


The best event of theirs that I’ve seen yet was organized by their school. In a way, it’s hardly surprising. The event was part of the Montessori graduation and their Montessori teachers had been with them for three whole years. These teachers are also clearly better suited and/or better trained for their work than any of the other organizers I’d seen. The kind of practice and preparation that went into that event I can only guess at. But the end result was lovely. The school had separated the “convocation” part of the event from the “annual day” part of the event. The convocation happened in the small school auditorium, with a minimum of fuss and fanfare. The annual day was at a nearby venue and was extremely well organized. Things proceeded apace and the costumes, choreography, and general stage management was very smooth. I don’t think any of the kids cried, but it obviously helped that they were completely at ease with the staff and each other, and also that they were all in the 5+ or just under 6 age group.


Well, both kids love being on stage, so when their current daycare (a different one from the one referred to earlier) organized an Annual Day event, how could I refuse?


So the big day came, and we dropped the kids at daycare and found our way to the venue – a good 15 km away from the daycare! – independently. I made sure we arrived late (because these things never start on time) so we reached at 11.20 for a 10.30 invitation. As we entered the auditorium and wondered where to sit, the event started – just as if they had been waiting for us to arrive.


It was horrible.


For two hours, we sat through one number after another, waiting for our kids’ turn and then waiting for the end to come. Two hours, itself, is not so bad. What made it – for me – intolerable was the crying. I can understand one or two kids bawling sporadically in the background – the kids here probably ranged from one-and-a-half to six in age. But when you have such tiny kids, don’t you want to put the smallest ones on stage as soon as you can, get them done, and send them off to be with their parents? I’d think that was simple common sense. Here, the tiniest kids came on at item five or six and then… you are not even going to believe this – they were sent off to change backstage and come back for another item at probably number ten or so… and then another, by which time I have no idea which number they were at but it was two hours since the show had started and four hours since the kids had been dropped off at daycare. And after all that, they were still expected to be all smiles and joy when they came back on stage for their “convocation”.


Now this is just plain stupid. I mean, this really is taking things too far. These kids are in playschool, which means they are not even three years old. You really expect them to perform three different dances in three different costumes and still be smiling? After four hours??? Obviously, all of them, I think without exception, was wailing and looking for their mamma. Or, in some cases, Mrini and Tara reliably inform me, their pappa.


All this tears and heartbreak – for whose edification? My kids were 6+ and they’ve been for various stage shows before, so I was fairly sure they would not be crying and anxious and tired and end-tethered (my shorthand for having reached the end of their tether) back there, but still. It worried me to think they might be, and it broke my heart to see these other tiny tots wailing their lungs out for no fault of theirs. When you have 20-odd tiny tots wailing on stage and yearning for the comfort of mamma (or pappa), even if you are not one of the concerned mammas or pappas, how can you enjoy? I couldn’t help wondering what their poor parents must be going through. I know what I would have done – I would have marched right up to the stage, ignored the well-meaning assistants, barged into the backstage and gone to my child. If she could be comforted, I would have comforted her. If not, I would have taken her home. That’s all.


Anyway, around 1.45 or so, Amit and I had had enough. First he went up to the assistants to tell them to hurry things up. When he was sent off with I don’t even know what kind of reply and the tiny tots continued to cry, I got up. Actually, I’m not the sort of person to get up and make a big fuss. And remember, these were not even my babies. Let the parents of those kids take up the battle, what’s it to me? But when the prinicipal announced that the next item would be a dance by some of the parents, I snapped. I charged up to the stage – from 15 rows back, mind you – and told the principal in no uncertain terms that I was here to see my daughters dance and not the parents, thank you very much, and I’d been waiting for two-and-a-half hours and enough already! Just get going with the kids and do it now, lady!


Much to my surprise, this worked. The principal quickly had our girls brought on, they did their two dances back to back, and off they went. And before they could get out of their costumes, I was there, waiting to whisk them away.


The net result of this, though, was that I was so angry by the time our girls came on stage that my hands were shaking and so the video I recorded of it is practically useless.


Still – our girls were fine. They were lovely They smiled broadly throughout their dance and they were – of course – the stars of the show, or that’s what I think, anyway. And they weren’t tired or cranky or anything. They were fine. But still… what a terrible thing to do to all those tiny tots. What kind of a teacher or principal would do that to their own kids??? You know the tiny ones are going to get exhausted the soonest – why not just get them on the stage, get them done, and send them to their parents. Ok, I get that you want all the parents to stay for all the items, otherwise the kids who come on at the end are performing to an empty audience. But still – if you send the kids back to their parents before they wind up in a flood of tears, there’s even a chance that some parents might stay on to watch the others. Also, what’s the idea of having tiny tots do three dances? They barely managed to do some kind of steps in the first dance – in the subsequent dances they just stood there looking lost and waiting for it to end – those who weren’t already crying, that is.





One more thing that I find sad. These kids are all excited about this big show they are going to be in. But – they never get to see any of it. They are backstage the whole time. That’s so sad. They may (or may not) have seen all the rehearsals, but wouldn’t they also love to see the razzmatazz? You bet they would! Why don’t these organizers let the kids sit in the audience – even in their costumes if they can – until a few minutes before their number and then again right after? That way, the kids have a lot more fun and also, they might not bawl so much. 


Sometimes, people do things that are just plain dumb.


4 Responses to How Not to do an Annual Day

  1. Saish says:

    Are you serious? Kids who are one and a half and above? They actually to do multiple dances??? Sheesh.
    Having said that, I have to say that i used to love all my Annual Days, right from the time I was in nursery. But that could be because used to be one those really horrible attention seeking diva kids, quite unlike my angelic modest self now On a serious note, I have never really considered how it is for all those poor kids. I used to enjoy being on the stage, and loved being called back, and I just assumed that everybody else did! Looking back of course, i realize that it must have been tough…

  2. Anonymous says:

    How sad. I dislike Annual days for pretty much the same reason. I think it has become more a chance for teachers and school management to tom-tom their organization and creative skills rather than for the kids themselves. For the middle school annual day in December, rehearsals began as early as in July. Needless to say, all the children were bored of the endless practice sessions by the time the actual event rolled by. On D-Day, we dropped the kids off to school at 9 am from where they were carted to Chowdiah around 10 am. The show started at 6pm and began with a 40-minute litany of the school’s and kids’ various achievements – nice, but could have been done more effectively and efficiently with a 20-minute PP. During the day, the kids were mainly made to stand or sit around, and were not let into the auditorium to watch the dress rehearsals. For most of the dances, I noticed that the best dancers always occupied centrestage, and the average dancers were always at the back. We as parents, do not go to annual days to see the finesse with which the show is executed. Rather, we go to see each of our kids do their best. I mean everyone knows that the best moments are when a child makes a mistake on stage, and not when a step is executed with dazzling perfection. I think schools lose their way and their perspective there. So the show goes on for 3 hours. And the kids who finish their performance are made to hang around backstage in costume for the “grand finale” to come and take a bow. So after the grand finale, it takes all the kids another 20 mins to change and leave. Now I don;t have to spell out how this can be done better. Before you ask, I haven’t been to the school and given them this feedback. But I promise to do that soon.

  3. poupee97 says:

    Neeti- Really!?! Wow, that sounds bad! I must kick up a fuss before my girls reach middle school. But you’re right – it’s just a big marketing-PR extravaganza and the kids become just the pawns. I would have expected better of school – I’m all praises for the way the Montessori section does it. And you’re also right that to every parent, their child is the star. Objectivity is not valued or required there. Teachers should know that.

  4. poupee97 says:

    Saishree – Well, there was one child at least who was under two. The others must have been between two and three. I think they would have enjoyed it if it had been done quicker and more smoothly – get the adrenaline high over in an hour or two and they would have been tired but happy. Stretch it to five hours… crazy.

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