Elementary students bring Doctor Dolittle to life with a musical production

Paso Robles, CA – A cast of 55 students from Almond Acres Charter Academy starred in the musical, Doctor Dolittle Junior.  The production was held at the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation Berg Auditorium and was directed by Claire Fundaro.  

“Almond Acres offers a unique opportunity for their students through the process of production. The lessons that are taught in theatre will impact all aspects of these students’ lives.  They’re given the chance to grow their confidence from auditioning, to rehearsing in front of their peers, and to the final product which creates a strong character within them. The process is invaluable, and I’m so grateful to be a part of the magic that only Theatre can create,” said Claire Fundaro.  

With only two weeks of rehearsals, the students were show-ready.  Parents and students worked together behind the scenes to construct sets, props, and design costumes.  

“When I auditioned for Dr. Dolittle, I said I did not want to sing a solo at all, whatsoever.  I would have never built up that courage if I hadn’t been given this opportunity. Now I have that skill which I am very grateful for,” said Summer Colegrove, who was cast as Dr. Dolittle.

The production was made possible with the support of local individuals and businesses namely the Barber, Beckett, Bojorquez, and Stoltzfus Families, Joyce Vertrees, Gena Beckett and Jill Ponti, Realtors with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hallmark Realty in downtown Paso Robles.  Raffle prizes were donated by Berry Hill Bistro, Central Coast Aquarium, Charles Paddock Zoo, Designs by Dena, Pappy McGregor’s, and Park Cinemas.

Almond Acres is charter school located in San Miguel that has a Visual and Performing Arts Program.  In addition to an annual theatre production, they also host an annual art show and an annual talent show.  The school also contracts with local artists to teach drama, choir, art, instrumental, and vocal classes.

Expand Your Circle of Influence

How much time in your week do you spend on things you can’t influence? Our circle of influence includes things we can affect directly. Our circle of concern includes things we worry about but may have not control over. Proactive people change the world because they make conscious decisions to influence matters in ways that they have the ability to respond (their response-ability). People who put their focus on a circle of concern shrink their circle of influence.
More importantly, influencing life episodes with a positive attitude increases our circle of influence and nurtures healthy relationships. For some reason, we think that chewing someone’s head off is going to cause a positive outcome. Adding negative to any situation usually makes this situation worse and erodes the foundation of every relationship – trust. When situations are difficult and we choose to use frontal lobe thinking, problems are resolved and relationships improved. The math is simple. Add a negative to a negative and you get more negative. Add a positive to a negative and the number line moves to the right.  It is much easier to knock someone down than it is to lift them up, but lifting begets strength and health.
Here is a dialogue prompt you can use to discuss being proactive with your children.
  1. Think of a problem or an opportunity you have right now.
  2. Draw the two circles above and list actions that are of concern or influence.
  3. If something in the list is a concern, let it go.
  4. If it is something that can be influenced, be proactive.
  5. Discuss how proactive behavior can be acted out with a positive attitude and action.
Students who practice proactive behavior are able to ignore distractions, prioritize tasks, complete class assignments, and plan ahead. Academic, athletic, artistic, or any other intelligence will grow by focusing on the circle of influence and minimizing time and effort on areas of concern or distraction. Like every habit, it takes 3-20 times to turn it into a habit. Be patient, persistent, and positively proactive.
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Our school logo is one of the best ways to illustrate the habit of synergy. When we balance our lives in all four ways (heart, mind, body, and soul) we become a better version of ourselves. When we neglect any one of these elements, we’re not running on all four tires. Life becomes more challenging and the disruption causes strife in the other three areas.

Synergizing our lives is a constant challenge and requires constant reflection. If a student only focuses time and energy on one element of the whole, the rest are diminished. When each is given its due time and energy, the rest flourish as well. Each makes the other stronger. Heart, plus mind, plus body, plus soul makes us healthy and whole.  I can’t say that I have ever had all four completely balanced in my life, but I know that when I am conscious of each and don’t neglect them I am happier, more satisfied, and more successful. The reason why our logo colors are swished is to point out that we should stay in motion with each of these areas of our life. When they each get our attention we experience synergy.

Ask your child the following questions and then ask if there is one element/color that they would like to stretch this week. 

  • Heart – How are you getting along and caring for family, friends, pets, and a garden?
  • Mind – How proactive are you in achieving academic success?
  • Body – How are your eating, exercising, and sleeping habits?
  • Soul – How much time do you spend seeking peace with music, prayer, meditation, and/or self-reflection?

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Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood

Seeking understanding about someone’s thoughts or feelings, and for that matter – our own, gives clarity to a situation. If you ask any expert in fields related to personal or professional relationships, they will tell you that the key to success is communication. Though this is the key, we too often fail to communicate well.

Many people believe that they just need to blast their opinion about a matter with no regard to their audience. Habit #5 teaches us that good communication begins with listening to the story of the other person and then responding with our opinion. The common practice is to make sure that people understand my point of view. The productive and positive influence is to truly understand their point of view first. This practice expresses respect, mutual understanding, empathy, and courage. Great relationships, be at home, school, or work is built on mutual respect. When my wife and I married, a dear friend told us that marriage is never a 50:50 proposition. He said that there are plenty of times that it is going to be a 90:10 or a 10:90 situation. Loving and respecting others is an act of good listening because we tend to find better solutions to challenges in life when we consider the ideas from both sides to create the best idea. Balance creates best!

When it comes to learning, listening is obviously a must!  Students who practice good listening skills become great thinkers. They can’t understand academic skills if they are distracted and not following a lesson. Moreover, asking questions and getting clarification develops greater understanding and makes meaningful connections between subjects and skills.

Effective Practices:

  1. Practice empathetic listening by asking clarifying questions and not judging the situation as you first see it.
    • When emotions are high stand your peaceful ground and don’t jump into the excitement. This will help the other person to connect to their thinking brain because they see you modeling it. 
      • Can you tell me what happened?
      • How do you feel about _____?
      • What do you think led to this situation?
      • You sound really _______. 
      • What do you think is the next right thing to do?
  2. Respectfully seek to be understood.
    • Once the other person recognizes that you are there to understand and want to help, its time to add your input. 
      • “I feel _______ about ________.”
      • “You could be right, however, ________.”
      • “Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with me. Would you like my opinion?”
      • “That sounds interesting. What do you think about ________?”

Personally and professionally I have learned that nine out of ten times a person who is unreasonable, belligerent, or accusatory are experiencing some type of woundedness from the past or present. Empathetic listening says to the person that you care about who they are, what they are feeling, and are open to helping them. Stephen Covey said it best when he uttered the words,

“Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival – to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.”

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