Archive for the ‘fun’ Category
Second day. Got a group of grade 3s to work with. The young ones are so much easier than pre-adolescents. Did a little ‘follow-the-leader’ dance in a circle formation. Kicks. Turning. Squat & jumps. Then, threw in the “chasse” and “weight changes” in a simplified Cha Cha LD.
First group of 7s was a challenge from the get-go. 7 girls. 16 boys. Daunting? Hmm, yes, but I like the odds. Question is, how do I break through their anxiety layers? Have to do it now, lesson 2, while I still have the advantage. So, I picked out one lad. Let’s call him Felix (not his real name).
Felix sported a razor thin Mohawk, bright white hoodie, matching runners, and a roll of the eyes that said he’d had enough of “this” before it even began. He was, in a word, COOL! Problem was, he didn’t care to make much effort at getting into the class. Everyone waited while he shed a layer and sauntered the 30-or-so feet to join the group. This was my chance.
“The whole class is waiting for you, sir. Yes, you,” I announced.
His look was one of delayed disregard. He sauntered all the more.
That was all it took. I made the point to him, and to the class, that such casual, dismissive behaviour wasn’t going to get him where he wanted to go. And, where did he want to go? No answer.
It didn’t matter. For you to grow, you have to be “present”. In the moment. Engaged. By showing a general malaise, you’re putting up a shield that keeps the outer world out, while locking you into whatever shell you’ve chosen.
“All I ask is that you give YOURSELF a chance. A chance to experience something new. Something different. Allow yourself to step outside that ‘comfort zone’ you’ve forged and get uncomfortable for a few moments. Then, and only then, will you grow.”
It took most of the class. But, I think he did engage. I took every opportunity to encourage it. Him and 3 or 4 others in the same space.
Funny thing. Their teacher told me later in the day how much his kids raved about the class. And, how what I did for Felix was a good thing. Peace, out.
Strathcona Elementary stands out amidst the quiet serenity of Vancouver’s East Side and Chinatown districts. A veritable oasis of paved and gravel playgrounds surrounded by brick and stone classroom structures, some dating back to the middle of last century, the school serves as sanctum to a myriad of children and pre-teens from the surrounding neighbourhoods.
“It’s a tough area to live and grow up in”, many teachers will tell me. Whether I’m teaching in the open expanses of new schools in Surrey, or the slightly more dated ones in Richmond, most every teacher has heard of, or knows something about teaching at, Strathcona.
I too have stories to share. I just finished 10 weeks of teaching grade 5′s how to dance Cha Cha and Jive. Yep, grade 5′s. “Ewwww, I don’t want to hold hands with a boy!”, is the usual fare. Today, I started a new dance unit. This time, it’s the gr 7′s turn. Already, one girl offered me a bribe if she could be exempt from having to put hands-to-hands in the course of her dance unit. No thanks, I said. This was followed by numerous suggestions on how I could turn Ballroom Dancing into a touch-free affair — not unlike those car washes that boast “no touch, no scratch” and, subsequently, “not clean”. No, Ballroom Dancing is nothing if not about touching, communicating, leading, following, hand to hand, partner to partner, beat to beat.
Day 1 with the grade 7′s. First class. There are 2 boys for every girl. One boy from First Nations heritage shows interest at first, but his eyes quickly glaze over as the lesson progresses. Could be a challenge keeping him engaged. Another, a boy of Asian descent (the predominant ethnicity in the group), glares at me, watching my every move. When he speaks, his speech is forced, like he’s riled up, verging on aggression. Will he be ‘oppositionally defiant’? Passive-aggressive? Is he an ‘alpha male’? All remains to be seen. That’s the challenge of teaching Ballroom Dancing in curricular PE.
The reward in teaching it comes in the changes these 25, and the other 80 or so, kids will experience in the coming weeks. Lesson 1 is all about breaking down stereotypes (fears), forging trust between instructor (me) and student (each of them), and assessing the level of receptiveness I’ll be getting.
I start with a follow-the-leader dance. Something fun, funky and upbeat. A little bit of marching, clapping on the up-beat, skipping, jogging, high hands, cheerleader kicks, “go-go” arms, hopping, maybe a chasse or grapevine. All the time, adding difficulty to every element.
Then, a few moments of explanation. Who’s going to have problems, and why do I say this? How is ‘locomotor learning’ different from ‘cognitive learning’? Why do some pick it up right away, while others take time to process the thought? I take a moment to spotlight 1 or 2, especially if they’ve been negligent in their attentiveness, or inadequate in their participation. Why? Not to embarrass them (although they are, embarrassed, that is). No, instead it’s to point out that locomotor learning requires all your faculties in order to succeed.
“You can’t just KNOW how to dance. You have to see it, think it, feel it, and DO it.”
I’ll give them tools — drills, techniques, pnemonics — to help them succeed in their learning. They’ll feel anxiety. It’s normal to feel this. They’ve got to accept it, then push on and get passed it. “If you’re not pushed to the edge of your comfort zone, you will not grow in your learning.”
Then comes the dance lesson. Eurythmics, first. Bim-boom-BAH. Step, step, step. Three steps to 4 beats, done while clapping the up-beat, 2 to the bar. Where are the problems going to occur? Weight changes. Or, to be accurate, the absence of a weight change. How to solve it? Awareness and repitition, for sure. Ultimately, a modified Orph-Kodaly technique works wonders. “Let your mouth teach your feet to dance,” I tell them. Almost to a person, it works.
Stepping patterns, second. Put another way, this part is about “dance steps”. In this lesson, it’s the Basic Step. The Forward Basic, and the Back Basic. If they’re quick and attentive, then I’ll add a Right and a Left Turn element. No partners, yet. Just stay in your lines and feel your feet move. Your legs move. Your body move. Inevitably, 3 or 4 students will start missing weight changes. I point it out, make them count the O-K method, and the problem’s solved. Today, I had to stretch the exercise by requiring them to walk the pattern while increasing width of steps. There. That solved the problem of absent weight changes. Everyone got it — 100 per cent pass rate. Kudos to them. There’ll be more kudos to come, and more challenges, too.
Hmmm. I’m still learning the finer side of blogging. Reminds me of why I prefer to dance and teach dancing than clicking my way through tags, hyperlinks and metafiles. Anyway, it’s all for a good cause. I want to find people out there who feel as I do — namely, teaching kids and youth to dance (with a partner) is a worthy thing to do.
I just finished writing out the Prescribed Learning Outcomes and Evaluation rubric for DanzKool programs. The Ministry Of Education resources sure helped. That’s a whole new language to have to learn. Now I know what ‘PLOs’ and ‘IRPs’ are about. If you’re a teacher and want to see the Grade 5-7 PLOs and Evaluation rubric, e-mail me (see the Blogroll on the right).
I’m getting lots of enquiries for putting DanzKool to work in January. Only a few have asked about this Fall. What’s up? Wouldn’t it be great to teach one group in the Fall and another group in the New Year? There’s hundreds of schools in the Vancouver region. How can I get the message to them? PE teachers. PAC members. They’re the ones who need to know. I need help.
P.S. Find out more about DanzKool, me, and my dance programs for kids and youth. Click on ‘About DanzKool’ in the Blogroll.
So, I’ve joined my passion with my job and am about to follow Tony Banderas (movie: Take The Lead) into the netherworld of teaching teens and kids Ballroom Dancing. Last year, I was amazed to see 10-yr olds change from ‘yuck, hold hands?’ to ‘wow, dancing is fun!’ in a few short weeks. I beamed as grunge-wearing 12-yr olds turned scowls into smiles by their 2nd dance class. I held back tears when ‘lippy’ teen-aged guys politely asked a girl for a dance.
We called it ‘Kids In Motion’ (for pre-teens), and ‘DanzKool’. Teachers loved it. They’re learning something really useful, some said. Others said, They’ve become such gentlemen/ladies; or, They’re so engaged in class it’s amazing. One parent even told a story, [My son] tries to hide it but I catch him practicing his steps before bedtime.
Last year, we covered Diefenbaker Elementary, Stoney Creek Elementary, L’Ecole Bilingue (French immersion school), Strathcona Elementary, Clayton Heights Highschool, Elgin Park Highschool and Point Grey Highschool. Over 2000 teens, kids and teachers across Greater Vancouver learned Salsa, Cha Cha, Jive, Swing, Fox Trot, and Waltz. This year, I want to document the progress. Add Tango, too. Maybe a video or two if I can get someone to do it. Heck, why not put a couple of lessons up for eyeballs, too?
Who’s out there that’s interested in hearing about my trials and tribulations? Who are you? What do you want to see? Why?
P.S. Photos courtesy of Mike Lee