Friday, April 16, 2010

My class just won’t dance

As I approach the last cycle in the semester, most of my classes are preparing for their final presentation. My kindergarten students are dancing to SINGING IN THE RAIN. My 1st graders are dancing to FIREFLIES. We talked about how exciting it is to watch fireflies at night and then try to catch them. My 6th graders are doing a DANCE OF THE DECADE project. In groups they will research a specific decade and report on the music, major news headlines, famous personalities, fashion and create a dance which represents that decade. In my school it has become tradition that the 8th graders learn ballroom dance. Their final project involves them presenting at least one ballroom dance to an audience. So far collectively they have explored Swing, The Waltz and Salsa. Although the classes are challenging (which is an understatement) and I am drained at the end of each class, the majority of my students are engaged and learning – except for that one class that just won't dance!

I have one 8th grade class that just won't dance. It's not all the students but it is more than 50% of the class. Most of the students are very immature. They argue with each other and constantly call each other names. After 2 disruptive sessions in the dance studio I've resorted to teaching them in their classroom. It is so frustrating to teach this class. The few students that do want to dance are discouraged because they are being punished for others apathy. I don't know if a math teacher or language arts teacher has to face the same level of disregard for their subject matter but I feel offended when a student continually says "I don't dance, its not my thing." When I was in grade school I didn't want to do math but it wasn't an option. I didn't want to fail so I did my work. These students seem not to be concerned with failing a dance class or with me having a conversation with their parents. Administration says just fail them if they don't do the work but something inside me says there has got to be a way to reach these students.

We've started watching parts of TAKE THE LEAD, the story of the Ballroom dance teacher, Pierre Dulaine who went into a New York City school to teach Ballroom dance. Each class the students answer questions about the scene they saw. We don't watch the movie in its entirety because it is rated PG13 and there is much foul language. We've actually had some brief interesting conversations about Pierre's rationale for wanting to teach Ballroom to these students. They all agreed the dance classes could have a positive effect on the students. So why don't they believe it for themselves. Its only April and we've just started this discussion. I don't want to resort to just giving them busy work because then I fell like I've failed. My hope is that by June I will have convinced the reluctant, unwilling students to give dance a try. If not dance, at least be willing, respectful audience members as other students learn to TAKE THE LEAD.