It's been nearly a month since I collected in my data and time has flown by whilst looking through it all and trying to find themes, ideas, commonalities and uniqueness.
One of the main things that have come out of both the diaries and the interviews is how much of the participants lives have been spent dancing - most started at the age of three so have already been dancing for a decade!
Ten years! That's a long time! So long, in fact that it's almost all of their life up to this point! In fact it's probably all of their life as far as memory goes! And that's the thing, isn't it; we dance and it is part of who we are, like the colour of our hair or our style of clothing. It develops us as people not just through the physical act of dancing but the metaphysical act of 'being a dancer.'
So, for those who are lucky enough to experience positive, motivating, successful and beneficial dance training there is great gain, but for those who don't, what then?
(N.B. I'm not talking careers or fame or money but well-being, self-esteem, body image, etc.).
OK. So it could be said that dancing is not everything to my students, just a part of the bigger picture of school, family, hobbies, friends,etc.
I would say, yes, that may be - very few of my students wish to pursue a career in dance, but dancing requires you to expose more of yourself to the world than a lot of other things too; your mind, body, spirit, and self.
If I hand in my maths homework and it comes back with lots of crosses and corrections then I can take it home and think about it privately. If I make a mistake in dance it will be seen by the rest of the class, as will the corrections from the teacher. The way in which mistakes are seen by the teacher, class and individual will influence the degree to which the experience of 'failure' is experienced, with the same holding true of the correction.
This, put in the perspective of dance being a part of the self, means a great responsibility on the teacher to approach every student with respect, understanding, empathy, kindness and support.
As one inquiry participant said,
"doing dance since I was two I’d like to think that I’m just at least a little bit talented at it, just like a little bit good at least because if I’m not then, like, just been wasting my life, kind of" (P008, 2013)
When put like that, how can you deny the importance, as dance teacher, of understanding how, in practice, to provide lessons that uphold the ethics of providing safe, nurturing environments for children and young people.
In essence, considering the person and the dance student as one in the same; what affects the dance student in class, affects the person as well.
But more than than, even.
It's no good seeing a student and approaching them in a certain way unless your perception is in-line with their view of self, is it. I can't assume a student is moody and unco-operative or stroppy just from their actions or reactions as that is an assumption based on the physical alone. I must think, 'does this seem like their normal reaction' or 'how might the student perceive what I have said or done' or ask the student for their thoughts to explain behaviour (although I realise that this might not be something that they know either!).
As another inquiry participant said,
"Cos I can either be really open with my emotions or really inside so often teachers...and when I’m getting angry they often think I’m just being, like, attitude-y or sulky but it’s not that it’s just, like, my frustration"(P003, 2013)
It is this fact that has really stuck with me over the last few weeks and affected me perhaps more than anything else I have discovered. It has affected my practice too, making me hyper-aware of my approach to every situation and altering the way I think about the long-term acquisition of skills within the framework of the syllabus classes I teach.
However, it's not going to be an easy ride - the last few weeks have taught me that!
What with the hormones, the stresses of exams and mocks, falling out with friends, arguing with parents, bus not turning up, rain, cold weather and masses of homework there are so many different 'needs' in the class. Is it possible to motivate everyone? All the time? Is it even possible to find one thing that can motivate everyone at the same time? And still cover syllabus? In the short terms of the dancing school?
Well, only time will tell but I think, given the amazing students I teach, I owe it to them all to keep trying...
Participant 003. 2013. BAPP inquiry. Interviewed by Sarah Robinson [in person]
Participant 009. 2013. BAPP inquiry. Interviewed by Sarah Robinson [in person]