Wednesday, September 16, 2015

And We Dance...Sort Of

Saturday was the girl's first dance class. I can't tell you how excited she has been about 'dance class'. 
For awhile, she was counting down the days until dance class. 
Every time she woke up, she would ask, "Is today dance class?"
Unfortunately, since she has no concept of time, she would ask after every nap and every bedtime. She was always disappointed.

But, finally Saturday came!

The class was described as "creative movement and imaginative play" for 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 year-olds. I envisioned ribbon dancing, playing with balloons, pretending to be a bird, etc. In fact, as the girl sometimes has trouble following the directions, we practiced how to follow the teacher's directions.

We arrived early on Saturday to get acclimated to the building. We found the dance studio (located next to the art studio and a cooking kitchen) and the door was closed. On the door was a sign that said in huge print NO STREET SHOES ALLOWED ON THE DANCE FLOOR. My stomach did a flutter as I wondered if I was supposed to have special shoes for her. 

I mentally pulled up the class description and did not recall anything about special shoes. I figured maybe that was for older students (it was the dance studio after all) and we continued our tour of the building. 

After about five minutes, more people started to arrive and we headed back to the dance studio for class to start. The girl was so happy to be at 'dance class' in her new Toy Story shirt, leggings, and denim jacket. For once, she was not clinging to me or crying, she was anticipating the class.

I glanced over to the mom and daughter on my right who were waiting right in front of the door. The mom was taking a video of the girl saying something about how excited she was about starting dance class. And I noticed that she had really dressed the part - pink leotard, pink tights, pink ballet shoes. Whoa! Way to get into a creative movement class.

Then, I glanced to my left at the other parents. They were ALL helping their daughters off with their over-shirts, revealing pink leotards, pink tights, and pink ballet shoes. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach as I realized that I had messed up something. My girl had no pink leotard, pink tights, nor pink ballet shoes. Suddenly, I was back in high school, feeling like the outcast who didn't have the 'cool' clothes, only this time I had done it to my child. The guilt gnawing at the pit of my stomach grew until class started.

The girl is so unaware, she had no idea the other girls had on something she didn't. For her, that Toy Story shirt was so special, I probably wouldn't have gotten it off of her, even if she had a leotard on underneath. But, for me, I felt out of place and ashamed that I hadn't figured it out. And worse, I had made my kid stand out in a not so good way.

So, we'll go back next week. 
We've signed up for 12 weeks.
We have a pink leotard.
Pink tights.
And pink ballet shoes.

Brontorina by James Howe

Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen

Firebird by Misty Copeland

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Read the Silly Books

 It's a new year and that means it is time for me to begin assessing first grade students. For the moment, let's put aside all the alarm bells that are going off in your head about the fact that it is only the second day of school and I am pulling students to do a reading assessment.

As I am walking first graders down the hall, I’m trying to establish rapport and get a gauge on their reading habits in 6.5 seconds by asking questions like
"Do you like to read?"
"What did you read this summer?"
"Do you read at home with mom or dad?"
"What’s your favorite book?"

Almost all the first graders respond in the affirmative – they love to read. Even the ones who can’t decode, tell me that they love reading. It makes my heart sing.

Later, I’m sitting in a fifth grade class and the teacher is having the students talk in groups about what they love and hate about reading.

The love side is short. And even though it says LOVE, their responses are lifeless and over quickly.

The hate side is long. 
Words and hand gestures are exchanged. The recording goes on forever. 
The students have a lot to say.

They could articulate exactly why they hated to read. We mandated what they had to read. We took away the choice. Dav Pilkey spoke eloquently about the need to allow students choice about the books they are "allowed" to read. You can read his interview here. Without choice, reading is an assignment, something that is done for the teacher. 

It comes back down to our purpose for reading. If our purpose is to instill a love of reading and help create lifelong readers, then maybe we allow Captain Underpants and Junie B. Jones to be read in our classrooms. Maybe after a student reads all 50 Diary of a Wimpy Kid books he/she will be ready and eager to tackle something a little more challenging like How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart. But, if right away we are banning 'silly' books, then we have turned the students off from reading before we even begin.