I believe to be an excellent teacher you must be able to give up the power. Teaching is listening and following. Lesson planning is an integral part of teaching, yet, my current goal for myself is to forget about them when I enter the classroom. I tend to be task oriented. I have objectives for my students. I want to make sure that there is order, and structure. However, I don't want to do this at the expense of learning. I'm currently reading Feel-Bad Education by Alfie Kohn, and he states, "What matters is not what we teach; it's what they learn, and the probability of real learning is far higher when students have a lot to say about both the content and the process" (Kohn 97). In one year, what will my students remember from my classes?
In October 2012, I wrote the following:
Memory and Associations
I have spent a lot of time lately remembering. Why did I ask my parents for dance classes as a child? When and why did I fall in love with dance? What do I remember about my first years of tap and ballet classes? How did my teachers make me feel? Do I remember learning plié, tendu, or any step? No matter what age we start dancing, we enter a world of steps and combinations. We learn a specific movement, it’s name, and we repeat it throughout our dance training, perfecting and making it muscle memory. Yet, what if our students do not continue their dance training? What if today’s class was their last dance class? Would this change how we approach and teach our classes? The reality is that most of our students will stop their training. That alone does not change to teach technique and dance vocabulary as I know it will instill discipline, work ethic, concentration, ect. However, it has made me consider what else I am teaching through my attitude, language, and teaching environment.
I feel that if I take these two ideas together, I am one step closer to finding my voice as a teacher. What good is it to teach technique and add one more step if my students leave class bored, frustrated, and discouraged? Is it worth it to fill every minute of class at the expense of _______? Does it benefit my student to limit their choices to a specific list? How strictly do I adhere to the structure of a dance class? Am I willing to change gears in the middle of the activity? I want to listen, really listen to what my students are telling me through their words and body language, and I want to go on their journey. This may mean dancing like a snake for the fifth time in class or free dance in the middle of barre or watching those ants crawl across the studio. I know their are limits to running with their ideas, but I find myself too often saying later, wait, after, not today, out of time, all of which mean no in one way or another. How can I say yes? How can I be creative, and make it work within the framework of class? How can I cultivate a love of dance, competence in movement, and teach the whole person?
There are so many next steps. But for now I'm going to start by asking my students. I am asking what we should start class with, how we should end class, what we should do next, how can we do this or that, should we try this again, and I am going to run with their ideas.