What constitutes a good learning experience from a great learning experience?
I believe it is the ability to define myself as a teacher, leader, facilitator or dance practitioner depending upon the activity. Through my ability to wear these different hats I can enter new ways of discovery in concepts of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social and teaching skills. I believe in the safe and open space I allow in the classroom, I believe in the character of lessons taught, I believe in the community of students I may have, and I believe in the ethics and value system I hold as a teacher. To me these elements make an important connection in order to create an implausible world of imagination, creativity and life changing experiences for the compilation as a whole.
As a teacher I have learned you are not going to be liked by every one. Just as you have different experiences in life and aesthetics of the world, so do your students. It is my philosophical belief in teaching that participation, inclusiveness, collaboration and reciprocity are what invite the soul making the subject and lessons transparent and contagious. My goal as a teacher is to remove impediments of judgment breaking down barriers of cultural and social differences (religion, race, language and sex) by opening the space to a community of truth while at the same time respecting the interiority of the students. I try to allow the students to share the physical as well emotional space with each other, by understanding each other’s differences. By putting myself first as an example I bring integration, acceptance and vulnerability to the class as a whole.
I believe we as humans are here to learn from each other and the experiences come according to where we are at in our lives. Humanity comes with a longing for learning, with a need to expand our intellect and understanding of life. In order to recognize these life experiences we come to an understanding of opposites and parallel aspects of what we are trying to learn. Life does not always bring you what you want but what you need and the need to obtain something require suffering (effort). I want to allow my students the time necessary to gain the needed knowledge in order for them to grow and survive further in life.
The lessons I teach are not ruled by the moving physical body alone, but by deeper and perhaps more humanistic lessons. I strive for my student to notice deeply, to question and to embody their ideas. I yearn for their understandings of identifiable artistic patterns, for their ability to reflect and to take action with the goal that through assessments they can make connections within themselves and the rest of the world.
I continually search to find reasons why dance is so important; why I have stayed and why I continue to stay? What is important when teaching dance? Why do I believe dance can help shed layers of polluted minds and judgmental actions? More and more I find myself thinking of not only the how of things but most importantly the why. Through my years as a faculty member at the University of Utah and in my Community Dance Practice I have discovered that it is the students that pass through my classroom that recharge my vocation as an educator and ignites the fire from within to give all that I am to them. It is the complete engagement of the students, the questions they ask, their sense of accomplishments and the honest “thank you” that is so exhilarating. I know they have learned something when I can see my reflection in my student’s faces, when memories and tangible experiences of my early years in dance classes take over my mind. I always try to think of a life concept that will hold out throughout the group, in many instances, it is an unconscious decision; no matter how small my conscious lessons might be.
It is important I invest from the heart. By listening to my heart and staying flexible to sudden change there is a good chance that the lessons I am about to present and share with a group are mostly unique, honest and favorably understood by many. I can express what I want and how I hope things get done and perhaps my own experiences as to why, but it is the student’s freedom of choice that allows them to accomplish the task.
I hope my students can find their own truth. A truth that will allow them to see the world and themselves as an important entity in which there efforts, interests and ideas are an integral part of the unknown. This will allow me to help them find an honest transformation while at the same time it creates a connectedness with others in a world of new realities.I strive to encourage dialogue and active learning between students and the teacher while respecting their personal space, diverse talents and individual ways of learning. In doing so, I become a catalyst for students to understand the subject and each other. I try to develop communication with my students inside and outside the classroom and use these opportunities to express my high expectations of them without shutting out their individuality. I believe this is a strong factor for motivation and personal involvement. The concerns I present to my students outside of class is what gives them strength through rough times, keeps them stimulated, encourages them and makes them think about their importance in school, life, their own ideas and future plans. I verbally discuss their continuous progress and accomplishments as well as their non-progressive development. I don’t expect perfection from them but growth and continuous stimulus for learning, the understanding of themselves, the subject and others. I want to create confident learners, creative individuals and respectful souls that will recognize the efforts it takes to accomplish something and the rewards that come with it.It is my hope students leave the classroom setting with a spark that invades their consciousness and finds moments of silence that allows for the deepest digestion of what has happened. This will give them the tools necessary for the body, mind and spirit to recognize its new ways of solving problems and expressing themselves in front of others.
It is my ultimate goal to become a mentor by making the best use of my time, by respecting and giving an importance to the space we choose to be in, and by being aware of the importance of the group dynamics and energy around us in order to create a clear shape or memoir of what just happened. I find teaching dance is more than a skill it is an Art. It requires creativity, deep thinking, planning and a degree of understanding of personal beliefs and aesthetic values. Teaching dance brings human conditions, values and aesthetic ideals visible through movement as well as personal understanding of what it means to be human.