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- Why We Should Teach Meditation in the Classroom - November 8, 2016
- Strike! - October 5, 2016
- Teaching a Superpower - September 22, 2016
- Essentially, I am a Teacher - August 30, 2016
- A Chicago Teacher's Dream - January 22, 2016
- A Career in Crisis - August 27, 2015
- Classroom Community and Rock-Paper-Scisssors - July 22, 2015
- The Art of Teaching - June 22, 2015
- Parent tip: Beyond Sounding It Out - June 4, 2015
I watched a wonderful video by The Killers this morning. It is filled with images of dancers that simply lifted my soul. It reminded me of one of the joys of my second grade classroom -- dancing.
I never officially taught my students to dance. I had a huge collection of cd’s: classical for math and writing, lullabies for wound up days, The Beatles, Irish music, Raffi's Bananaphone for lunches that included bananas, and good old-fashioned early rock. Music came on while we ate lunch, at parties, cleaned our desks or wrote. My favorite form of evil punishment was during silent lunch. I’d turn off the lights, put on early Beatles music and dance. Usually a student teacher would join in. The students weren’t allowed to talk. Laughter was allowed, though. They settled down from a rowdy morning (hence the silent lunch.) I recharged my batteries. A wonderfully productive afternoon would follow. They never complained about it. Well, a few did because they didn’t get to dance with me.
A favorite reward picked by the kids for completing a task was having me spin and dip them, which was danced with beaming smiles on the child’s face as well as mine. We conga-lined around the room during parties. I’ve seen anxious children let go and be free while we took some much need down time. I have a clear image of a group of boys laughing, singing, and dancing to "Lolllipop" at a Valentines Day celebration. They played that song fourteen times until I dreamt of lollipops in my sleep that night.
I taught them to do the Twist while we scrubbed out our desks before parent conferences. It was a little like Karate Kid methodology and an important task. No one wants their mother to clean out their desk- EVER! “What is in this folder? Yuck! Is this dirty tissue yours? How come all these scraps are in here? What is this moldy thing?” You get the picture. With the accompanying bubble gum music and the twisting motion the task took only a few minutes.
We didn’t dance all day, every day. There were days were we didn’t dance at all. For the life of me, I don’t know why. And Michelle Rhee, if you think I played too much and my class didn’t learn anything, you need to get your head out of your hiney, shake it around, and live a little. Why do you suppose all those high tech, innovative companies have basketball courts, game rooms, and …. juke boxes? That is because physical movement encourages thinking! In fact, brain studies show boys need to move to process information. Man, oh man, my boys loved to dance.
There were guidelines for dancing, whether it was for a morning meeting activity or a class party. No jumping on other people. You had to keep your eyes open. You had to have fun. No one could force you to dance. And of course, no making fun but my students didn’t need to be reminded of that rule. I ran a safe classroom where risk taking was encouraged whether it was for reading, doing a report, answering questions, and, most importantly, letting your personality shine out through your actions. Those actions most certainly included dancing.
One highlight of all my years teaching was at a year-end party. An autistic boy in my class was dancing by himself on the rug. He was doing a move he had seen at the talent show that morning. A line of boys had put their hands on top of each other and made waves with their arms. He was standing on the rug with his arms extended mimicking the dance move. Two girls stood watching him. Finally, one sidled up and asked, “Hey, can we do that with you?” He stopped and looked down. I watched breathlessly. I realized he was smiling. “Yeah!” he said in his raspy voice as he extended his arms. They lay their hands on his and began to dance together, faces beaming. I was smiling too, but my eyes had filled with tears. A school year made successful because he could let someone touch him while he danced.
You can’t dance all day in school. We had too much to get done. I firmly believe learning requires hard work but that does not disallow fun. Joyous laughter rang out and was a reward for something accomplished. It is the relief of mastering something difficult. It is the fist pumping “Yes!” of finding a solution. It reflects love, surprise, pride, excitement, and wonder. Happy dances were well received when an onerous job was finished successfully. Why not? Life is too short not to dance.
Here's the link to "All the Thing's That I've Done" by The Killers. Enjoy!