Buckets Overflowing…

 

Dance is a beautiful, dynamic, and expressive art form that touches our hearts, connecting us to music and emotion on a visceral level.   To those who are swept away it is much more the ‘just dance’.  We dedicate our lives to the art form – whether performing, teaching, or creating.   It becomes a part of who we are as people.   Because of this personal connection to dance we tend to become tied our ideas and methodologies, so much so that perhaps our expectations are a bit unreachable on occasion.

We may even take ourselves a bit too seriously at times. 🙂

As [dance] educators, whether teaching preschoolers or high school students, we need to remember that not only are we molding the technique and artistry of our young dancers, we are also molding their minds via our role as educators.  The words we choose, or do not choose, directly impact students’ self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence.

So does that mean that giving correction and criticism is wrong/damaging?   Short answer, No.   Constructive criticism and correction is entirely appropriate when given and taken in the right context.    It is key to ensure that correction and constructive criticism is given with a purpose.

Why do we correct?  Because we know that a particular student or group is able to do more and accomplish more within their technique.   If we didn’t see the potential, we would not push students toward more specificity, more artistry, more performance, in their work.  We want you to be the best that you can be!

A group of 5 yr old creative movement students reminded me that there is an important exchange occurring between both students (of all ages) and teachers.  It’s an important exchange that is worth paying attention to in our teaching.

Filling up the buckets.

It was a Saturday morning and the conversation with my 5 yr old class went something like this …

(Me)                “H, why are you sad today?”

(Little H)       “No one filled my bucket today!”

(The entire class of 18 )   “We have buckets too!  Our teacher says that when you do/say something nice to/for someone that you put a little happy into their bucket.”

(Me to little H)  “You know, when you put some happy into another persons bucket you are also receiving a little happy in your bucket too.”

(Little H)         “Yes!  I did do something nice for someone else today.  My bucket IS full!”

Later at the end of class…

(Me to the class)  “You all were so patient today while you were learning your recital dance.  Good job!”

And everyone in the class, as if on cue, held out their hands like little buckets to receive their compliment.   On this particular day my bucket had been feeling a bit empty, but as they left the room I felt like my bucket was suddenly over flowing.

(Cue the sunshine flowing into the room and my heart melting… )

It is crucial that we, as dance educators, ensure that we are making the time and effort to fill the buckets of all of our students, everyday.   The individual work of fine-tuning technique with confidence and the enjoyment of dance is directly connected to the joy we all feel when in the studio.  This fullness is what carries each of us (student and teacher alike) through the days/moments when maybe we aren’t so positive or are maybe struggling with the work.

How can we do this via our teaching?

  • Taking the time to acknowledge the effort students are putting into their work – whether they have accomplished  a step/task or are still working on it.
  • Taking the time to recognize and acknowledge an effort to change behavior or to make a better choice.
  • Helping a student find other ways to be a part of class when they are injured.
  • Acknowledging that what they are working on is challenging and that they are doing a good job at working through it.
  • Or maybe it’s a simple “thank you for working so hard today!” at the end of a class.

Some things to avoid.

  • Sarcasm –whether it be in jest or within a correction.   Sarcasm can be easily misconstrued and taken to heart.
  • Poking fun.
  • Making up names for students, though [probably] only done in jest this puts the students in an uncomfortable position and negatively impacts self-esteem.

The moral of the story?  How we choose our teaching words can give or take away the joy our students feel through dance. And when we give our students joy – what an amazing gift we receive in return.  The Best!

Author:  Jacqui Davidson

Dear Readers,

See?!  AD4L really is still online!  Life has been a little crazy lately and well, sometimes life takes priority over blogging.   It happens.   But don’t dismay!  A newsletter is in the works and today is a NEW POST inspired by some amazing and energetic 5 yr olds.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Have a beautiful day.

Jacqui

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

 

The Magic of Winter!?!

 

Living in the centre of Canada, though not the northernmost part of Canada,  a larger than usual portion of our year is spent adapting daily life to (extreme) winter weather conditions.    Our children are very familiar with the excitement of the first snow, and the inevitable winter blues that affect us after months and weeks and hours of snow.  Extremely low temperatures often visit between snowfalls – cold enough that children are not allowed to go outside for recess.    As this is part of our geographical landscape the number of school days children miss because of weather is surprisingly limited.   Instead, allowances are made for those travelling long distances and for those in rural areas, and recess is adapted to the weather conditions whether than means only 10 minutes outside or recess in the gym.

Parents, teachers, and children agree that sometimes winter seems to be endless!  Oh, how we yearn for the days of not wearing boots, coats, hats, mitts, and layers upon layers of clothing!  (Can you sense the mid-January exasperation?)

Ezra Jack Keats’ book,The Snowy Day is the perfect book for reminding us of the fun we can have exploring in the snow, by ourselves and with a friend.   Simple activities, like going for a walk, become an adventure!   Walking in the snow we can see our footprints, we experience the ‘crunch, crunch, crunch’ sounds beneath our feet, and the feeling of sinking into the deep banks of snow (the best mode of travel in lieu of cleared sidewalks).

Keats’ captures the wonder of  witnessing the sparkling snowflakes falling, giving our landscape a magical lightness.   And those first moments waking  up after a snowstorm/blizzard, looking out into the neighbourhood that has magically been transformed into a sparkling, white, crystallized wonderland.

Taking this book into the studio, creative movement (3-5 yr olds) lessons can include exploring different pathways on the ground, the shapes and sparkle of snowflakes, tip toeing through the snow attempting to make the smallest footprints possible, and tunnelling through the huge piles of snow.     For 6-7 yr olds (pre-ballet) we can explore our footprints in the snow — turning our feet out and in (external and internal rotation), high tip toes with turnout, and long runs (for the boys) that take us soaring low across the snow.

The final page of the book seems to sum up a child’s early experience of our winters…little wee persons surrounded by HUGE piles of snow!

Everyday is truly and adventure.

Simply magical.

Author:  Jacqui Davidson

November Newsletter

Starting today, AD4L newsletters will be available to absolutely everyone (scroll down to read it!)!  Subscribing is still the easiest way to ensure you don’t miss out on a single post or newsletter (and you will receive the occasional bonus too!).  However if email isn’t your thing you can keep in touch via Facebook and Twitter as well.

To share the newsletter with your studio and friends:   In the viewer below click ‘expand’.   Hovering the cursor over the newsletter you will see sharing links at the bottom of the page, click on one of these to go to a sharing page.   From here you can download a  .pdf, email, like/share on facebook, tweet, and much more.

In response to Diabetes Awareness Month, this month’s newsletter discusses diabetes as it applies to the dance studio setting.  My mother is a Type II diabetic who is now living with the long term, life altering medical conditions that can accompany a life with Type II (vascular disease, kidney failure, neuropathy and amputation).   Caring for an individual living with these conditions, it saddens me to know that children are now being diagnosed with what used to be ‘adult onset’ of diabetes (Type II).  In essence, this diagnosis is a predictor of the life span of these children.   Eating lots of sugar is not a predictor of diabetes, and early detection followed by changes in lifestyle are key in preventing the life altering medical conditions that can occur.   Please read and share with friends and family in dance, and life!

 

Wishing you wellness in dance, and life!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Alphabet Kids

Robbie Woliver’s (2009) Alphabet Kids:  From ADD to Zellweger Syndrome, A Guide to Developmental, Neurobiological and Psychological Disorders for Parents and Professionals   is a practical guide to the many disorders and syndromes diagnosed in children today.  Alphabet Kids walks us through multiple  syndromes and disorders (from A t0 Z), providing  us with situational examples and lists of common signs and symptoms.  Offering several  perspectives of supporting  research,  each disorder/syndrome is its own chapter beginning with terms used in the chapter, symptoms, causes, general diagnosis and treatment, and finally general prognosis.   References are included at the end of each chapter, providing the reader with a starting point for personal research.

With one in six children often being diagnosed with multiple, interconnected neurobiological, developmental, and genetic illnesses, dance teachers are wise to seek out knowledge regarding these syndromes and disorders.   This resource provides practical and useful information with which to facilitate communication between teacher and parent, encouraging a deeper understanding of behavior, to foster best teaching practices and cues.   As dance teachers our role is to understand any diagnosed conditions/syndromes of our students and to work with parents to find best ways to ensure success for the student.  Having a text such as Alphabet Kids in your library provides detailed information, written for the non-medical community (the layperson), and a place to begin your education with these syndromes and conditions.

 Author:  Jacqui Davidson