This weekend, I visited the Dancing with Class All-Star scholarship team practice for the first time since this summer when they first started working and training together. On my way there, Chicago Public Radio was airing an episode of "This American Life" focused on the the awkwardness of middle school years and what a difficult time it is for kids. A piece of the show interviewed kids who were on their way to middle school dances across the country.....many of them contemplating whether or not they might "dance with someone" and if so, how that would go since they've never done it before or learned how to do it.
Then I walked into the park district building where our All-Stars were practicing. They are mostly 7th graders -- about 16-20 kids from schools all over the city. What I saw was a group of confident, happy young gentlemen and ladies who comfortably and happily worked on Fox Trot, dancing with one another without thinking twice about it. I was reminded of how this transformation happens every day at schools across the city who participate in Dancing with Class.
Fourth, Fifth and Sixth graders are given a chance to get comfortable with "dancing together" in a safe and structured environment before they get to that awkward middle school stage.
Just think: if part of our "American life," included EVERY child learning to do this in their schools and homes BEFORE the middle school years, how much more confident kids might feel during those social occasions. How much more respectful they would be of their physical selves. And, perhaps, how much happier they would feel on the way to that middle school dance.
If you would like to listen to the "This American Life" program, here is a link: