For years I have been honored to teach youth dance lessons at a local dance studio, our local Y and local recreation department. I teach a ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical and tumbling to children ages 3 to 12. I find that no matter what kind of a day I may be having, coming into the dance studio and seeing all those happy smiles puts a smile on my face.
What I love most about the classes I teach, is that there is a point when I can feel myself just let go and see life through the eyes of those children. A world that is full of music, laughter, wonder and creativity. I find that through the music I play and the movements we learn, my class and I are able to express ourselves and become so many wonderful things. We roar like dinosaurs, we become princesses, we jump and leap like frogs, we make imaginary pizzas while we stretch, we laugh, we sing, we dance. For 45 minutes, these children and I enjoy the simplicity of being together, having fun, and learning all at the same time. I’m sure some of the parents in the waiting room think I’m crazy as I’m flapping my duck wings and quacking at the top of my lungs, but let me tell you, my dancers are learning!
What do children learn through dance?
So many wonderful things happen in dance classes, educationally. Children are learning vocabulary, directional words, counting skills, and patterning. Their social skills are strengthened by learning how to work as a team while interacting with peers and adults. Their attention spans are lengthening. Children also develop skills to perform their dances in front of others, which is a HUGE accomplishment and social lesson. Obviously their physical development is benefiting; their muscles are strengthening and they are building coordination and body awareness. This, all from a 45 minute activity!
One of my favorite activities at dance is when we sit and stretch and “make a pizza.” I love to hear what each student wants to put on our pizza each week. I note how at the beginning of the year, their toppings choices are short and generic….”cheese, pepperoni” etc. By the end of October their responses are detailed and elaborate; “5 Red gummy bears, 13 cups of apple juice, everything but broccoli.” As my students become comfortable in their environment and are encouraged to be creative, their responses become more thoughtful and detailed. What they love is my response. No matter what the topping is that they choose to share, I give them a positive response, making sure that each of them knows that their toppings are appreciated and are important to our final creation.
So my two questions are….
- Why don’t we early educators incorporate more music and movement, dance, and the arts into our school classrooms? Do we provide enough opportunities for our students to think freely and creativity without restrictions and expectations? Don’t all of our students deserve the opportunity to have a mode of learning that gives them the freedom to move and create?
- Are we as early educators listening to our students…..I mean really listening? Our children deserve our attention and deserve genuine responses that take their opinions and feelings into consideration. We need to be encouraging, reassuring, and valuing of what they have to say.
When Laura and I go out to conduct professional development seminars I always comment that there are thousands for “mediocre” teachers in this world. Teachers who come in, educate, are kind and loving, they do nothing wrong in their quest to educate…but then there are BA BAM teachers….those who go above and beyond to ensure that their students are given opportunities to be creative, exploratory, inquisitive, and most of all listened to.
Does it take a bit more energy and planning to become a “BA BAM” teacher? You bet! But it is worth it and our children deserve it. So my last question for this post is…..How will you be a “BA BAM” teacher today?