By: Olivia Mode-Cater
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I know that collaborating with other teachers can feel impractical. There is so much that we need to get done in our own classroom, that sometimes it is easier to put our heads down and just do our own thing. In theory, it would be wonderful to have ample time to work with coworkers and develop astounding cross-curricular units, but most of the time collaborating can feel like another stressful thing we have to try to fit into schedule.
Recently, the music teacher at my school approached me about visiting her classroom and doing a lesson on the waltz. She told me that her 2ndgraders were having a difficult time understanding ¾ time signatures and thought that perhaps dancing it out would help. When I originally read her email my list of things to do ran through my head and I was considering telling her I was too busy. But then, I thought of the students and how awesome of an experience it would be for them and agreed to guest teach. Here is an excerpt of the class:
As you can see, the collaboration went really well! The music teacher told me that the dancing really helped the students understand the ¾ time signature. She noticed big improvements in the class periods that followed! Since that day, I’ve also had many 2ndgraders ask me when I was coming back to music class, because they had so much fun last time! This experience reminded me of the power of teamwork. If you are on the fence about reaching out to a colleague, here are some additional reasons why you should try to plan a collaboration:
Students who are kinesthetic/tactile learners don’t have as many opportunities to learn in their preferred learning style. Traditionally, classroom teachers use predominately visual and auditory teaching methods. Through dance, you can create a new entry point for kinesthetic learners into the content.
Dance can often be seen as an isolated event that isn’t connected to anything outside of the studio. Connecting dance to other content areas can break these misconceptions and can help students and other teachers realize that dance and movement are connected to all aspects of life.
We often ask our students to work well with others and to show teamwork; however, we rarely have the opportunity to model these interactions for our students. Collaborations with colleagues is an opportunity for you to show students how to brainstorm, communicate, and compromise with a peer.
Learning is most powerful when it is memorable and fun! Collaborative units are ones that are going to stick with students for years to come.
Many dance educators email me asking how to get their dance program to grow and how to get their administrators to support dance more. Creating these types of experiences is how you will advocate for your program and show the power of dance. A principal will notice when you go above and beyond to bring dance to more students through innovative and collaborative methods. Additionally, more teachers will support your program and performances if you are also adding value to their classrooms through these kinds of initiatives.
Even though collaborating takes more planning and time, your students and program are worth it. Every day we are teaching in schools we are advocates for our Art and we must fight for dance to be seen and valued! So, in spite of all the challenges that can come with collaborating, I highly recommend you emailing your colleague so that you can share your expertise and plan something awesome!