Thursday, September 12, 2013

Welcome to My World

My classroom is quite different from other classrooms.

There are no desks or chairs.  I don't have a SmartBoard or even a table holding a projector (though I dream of someday having a mounted projector).  We don't have cubbies, lunch boxes or book bags.  There's no bank of desktops computers along the wall. You won't find a reading corner, a kidney-shaped table, or a time out chair.

Instead you'll find a large, open space, free of the clutter of furniture.  We have a sprung wood floor and a wall of full-length mirrors.  Our most used piece of equipment is the iPod and it's docking station, closely followed by my iPad.  Open the closet door and you'll be facing rows of hanging shoe pockets organizing various sizes, styles and colors of ballet and tap shoes.  

You guessed it - it's a dance room.  

But even that seems too simple an identifier.  I've spent almost all of my life in dance studios, and yet this one is different.  The studios of my childhood and adolescence were blank canvases, offering lots of a space, mirrors and barres, a corner stereo, and little else.  While I've seen photos of studios with brightly painted walls, my home studio had white walls and the infamous legwarmers ballet poster.  I think this closely correlates to the focus of our studio - we worked on technique for half of the class period, then our recital piece for the rest of the period (yes, we worked on our recital piece ALL YEAR LONG - I never questioned it then, but I'm stunned by it now when my classes meet for 40 minutes 4 days a week for 7 weeks and perform at the end of the quarter).  We never created, learned choreographic principles, or learned dance history.  

And yet in my dance room we have various items posted on the walls - from dance elements posters to a "We Wish You Well" board and everything in between.  We work on technique basics, but we also learn about various methods of abstraction and Laban's effort qualities.  Yes, we read nonfiction books for research, but we use books of various genres as inspiration for our movement studies.  We analyze dance video clips.  We practice providing critical feedback to our peers in a way that is helpful and not hurtful.  We have a "Safe Place" and know how to use it when we feel out of control and want to actively regain our composure.  We laugh (a lot).  We cry (a little - sometimes because we're upset and sometimes because, as a student observed today, "it's just too beautiful").  

And I think that's why I subconsciously make the distinction...'s not a "dance studio" or a "classroom" but a "dance room", the hybrid of the two.  We're not as competitive as members of a studio typical can be - we're not fighting for the front row, the solo, or to place into the next level.  We're not as strictly structured as a classroom - we encourage each other to approach tasks from as many angles as possible.  We think critically about the process we're working through instead of focusing solely on the product.  We're the best of both worlds.  

And really, truly, we're a dance family.

We help each other whenever there's a need.  We work to help everyone feel safe and valued.  We each have a job and we do it daily as a service to our classmates.  When we get upset, we use our big voices to let others know and then our problem-solving skills to work out a solution or a plan for how to handle it the next time the situation arises.  We dance together.  We think together.  We create together.  And most importantly, we care about each other. 

Because isn't that what it's all about?  

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