The text came through at about 9:30 pm on a Wednesday night. A friend of mine was asking if my daughter and I wanted to join her and her daughter at the YMCA’s Hip Hop class on Wednesday nights for the next five weeks. The cost of the class was incredibly reasonable. And, it worked perfectly timing wise for us to first drop my son off at hockey practice and then make it to the YMCA in time to attend class. Everything sounded pretty much perfect. I knew that my daughter would be over the moon excited about the idea of taking the class. I was all ready to register when I realized this was a hip hop class that I was signing up for. Hip Hop. I wasn’t exactly sure I knew what hip hop all included. I I had taken tap, acrobatics and ballet lessons during my elementary school years, but I was not exactly an expert in the dance world. I am an athlete, but graceful on the dance floor was something that I was not sure about. However, taking a dance class was something that I put on my bucket list last spring. This is also my year of trying new things. Since the start of the year, I have tried something new each month. My #oneword for 2018 is innovation. So, after a slight hesitation, 24 hours later, my daughter and I registered for the last two spots in our first dance class together.
As Wednesday evening neared, I started to wonder what the class would be like. I figured that this would be good, and intentional time spent well with my daughter so that minimized any overwhelming thoughts I had. I would also be able to show my own kids, as well as students that I was trying new things. I also want to model that there are many different ways to work out and be active. Part of me wondered if I would be the worst one, or if anyone would notice when I did not know what I was doing. I decided that this detail was not really relevant to my overall goals for trying the class. My 8-year-old daughter is incredibly brave, and willing to try new things- I kind of wanted to be just like her this time.
As I walked into the aerobic studio on a chilly November night, the instructor came up to us right away and introduced herself. She said a few encouraging things, but what I remember most was her energy and positive attitude. She seemed pretty excited about whatever we were going to do. After welcoming us, she created an experience. She turned down the overhead lights, turned up the colored strobe lights and cranked up the music. And just like that, an exercise room was turned into a Friday night club. I wondered if she had read Dave Burgess’ Teach Like A Pirate? She seemed to know just what to do in order to set the scene. As I started warming up, I paused to think about the types of environments I was using to transport my students into another world. The environment really did make a difference in my experience in class. It made learning a lot more fun and authentic!
As a teacher, I also thought a lot about the modeling that the instructor did. I realize that an aerobic or dance class is different from the traditional classroom in a middle school. But, watching this instructor model good teaching really got me to reflect a lot on how I model what I am asking my students to do. I started thinking about a whether or not I am I modeling enough? Can my students follow my verbal directions? I became aware of the fact that since I did not understand all of the dance terms and commands that were yelled out, I am sure that without her constant demonstration; I would have been seriously lost. It reminded me of how important it is to do examples of my own work and actually take my students through the process that I am asking them to do.
The way that I received feedback was also something that stood out. The teacher never gave me a stern look, or told me I wasn’t doing something correctly; and I am confident that I did not do every move with 100 percent accuracy. What she did do was smile a lot and move in my direction from time to time, continuing to model what she was asking me to do. When the class was over, she asked me how it was, and told me that I should definitely come back next week. Not once did she focus on what I necessarily needed to improve on. She made me feel as though I did enough to warrant a welcomed invitation back.
I had a great time, and decided I would most certainly be back. My daughter loved the experience. I realize that trying a number of different things this year made attempting a class like this possible and not intimidating. The more experiences I have with testing out my bravery truly makes a difference. I also thought about my confidence level. Before we started the class, I told my daughter it was okay if we were the worst people in the class. If we worked hard, had fun, and improved at all it would be a success. When I think about my middle school students, I realize that some of the best things I can give them are opportunities to build confidence, and try new things in a low risk environment.