To say that some of my classes are challenging, is an understatement. But I can't blame them. I see the way they are expected to walk down the halls in straight, silent lines. I see the kids at the back of the line who choose to dance and wiggle their way through the hall and then get reprimanded for it. I hear the screams of many frustrated teachers trying to control their classrooms. By the time the kids get to me, in a class where freedom of expression is not only allowed but encouraged, they can't help but act out.
I will admit that as much as I want them to have a space where they don't have to be perfect and they can express themselves, it can be frustrating at times. I want them to be able to let loose and have fun but I also want them to take away the many life lessons that this program has to offer. Lessons about respect, manners, and discipline as well as the ability to ask for what you want in life.
After last week with them, I kept thinking about a particularly lively group that I have. None of my methods, or their teacher's methods, were working to get them to focus at the task at hand. What's more frustrating is that occasionally throughout the class we could get them to settle down and run the dance, and what I would see was amazing! They looked like little ladies and gentleman executing the steps just as I taught them. How could I get them to focus like that for more than two times in a class? At the end of class, I turned it back on the students. I told them that this was a great opportunity and that they can either let some trouble makers in the class take that opportunity away, or they can decide to take it for themselves.
What I saw this week was incredible. I had more students actively participating than in the three classes prior. I had a few students who decided to take the opportunity for themselves by helping to get their classmates into a circle and partner off. I could tell that one of my students was frustrated by constantly have to stop the class to regain focus. This week he was able to ask for what he wanted from his classmates by respectfully asking them to pay attention.
We still have a lot of work to do but I was so impressed to see progress that quickly. From one week barely getting through half of the waltz routine and the next week finishing the whole swing routine was astonishing to me. I can see them starting to use teamwork along with their personal work while still having fun in the process.