Saturday, 28 October 2017

Taking the Plunge

I finally am having the courage to try something new, something that I never a year ago would have had the guts to try. I am altering the course I teach for student teachers. Reflection is a powerful tool and through my reflection in the two previous modules, I have come to realise elements of my practice need to be changed. Taking the plunge though is easier said than done, and I have been at a crossroads to how and what I should alter. More importantly though is the question “why?”. Surely what I teach the students is appropriate for what they need to start their careers, the answer to that is simply no! How to go about it is indeed a task. Where should I start? Listening to the students is where I began. A newish concept for me. I have in the past obviously listened to their ideas and comments, but I have to admit shamefully that I sort of brushed them aside. This term I did not. Shapiro (2008, p.160), states that “the content of education (…) should be based on the things about which the students want to know “. I listened and digested what they said and started making a new plan of my eight lessons. It is a challenge not to engage in my normal teaching style and revert to my old plan and ways, but these are young professionals who already have some experience of teaching themselves. I have on several occasions wanted to jump in and “assist”, yet I see they are contented, engaged in the task and are happily swapping previous experiences.

I do not know at this time what the outcome will be for me personally or for the student teachers, but that is the experience of this journey isn’t it? I feel quite naughty trying something new, and not at all guilty which I thought I may feel (a betrayal to my teachers and education). Instead, I have a feeling of excitiment and I feel liberated to some extent!

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” 
John Dewey

Shapiro. B (2008), Dance in a World of Change. Human Kinetics Publishers

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

This summer, after receiving feedback from Module 2, has been quite an eventful one for me. A change in my work situation has given me that little extra push to reflect on my holistic practice to date, instead of reflecting on it from module to module.

When I was writing my AOL essays in Module One, I remember feeling quite pleased with myself at the teacher I had become. Yes, there were elements of my early practice that made me squirm with embarrassment, and I did worry how many children I had emotionally hurt, confused (why was I nicer out of class than in?), or had turned away from dance because of their experience with me? Writing those essays though gave me an overall sense of achievement. I wonder where I was mentally though when I was writing them? I now look back and see that I was writing them with the identity that I feel I have today, a ballet teacher. Even though I began my teaching practice like many of us do, teaching different genres, I wrote those essays as a ballet teacher. I reflected mainly on my practice in one genre, even though I taught four.

Module Two commenced and for the first time, I came across the theory of Dualism and Embodiment. Oh dear, now Im lost! I have over the years heard about embodiment, but that doesnt belong in classical ballet does it, or does it? I never learnt about them in my education so maybe they are something that I dont need to know? How naive and narrow-minded Ive been.
For someone who has been trying not to be a reflection of her own education and gain more knowledge throughout my career, why has the understanding of Dualism and embodiment scared me?
My conclusion after some time debating is that I didnt think they were relevant to my practice. When I think about the endless courses I have participated in, the majority have been to either teach or improve technical skills. How to teach technique has been the focus. Quite simply, I still have a similar outlook to my teachers from the 80s.

Teaching a class last term with my university students, I remember thinking how dreary they were. They gave me nothing, and so I asked them to forget their technique for a particular exercise and just let go. The transformation was astounding, I really felt their movements, I almost wanted to get up and dance with them! When talking to them afterwards, they stated that the technique inhibited them. I could relate to that from a teacher perspective. Teaching jazz (which I did up to a year ago), made me feel alive. I thought it was because it gave me a workout, the group were adults and fun to teach, and I didnt have to worry so much about my technique as I did when teaching ballet.

Watching a guest teacher and my university students in a contemporary class at the end of the last term, has me contemplating what do I need to do to embrace embodiment in my practice? I would love all my pupils in the future to experience this and to feel whole". Is it possible for me to change my practice and more importantly engage in embodiment? Maybe I do already but yet have to recognise it.

This is one of my personal goals moving forward and a challenging one.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Feedback and Proceeding Forward

Hi, I hope everybody is well and has had a good summer.

I would like to share my feedback and thoughts after completing Module Two last term. Firstly, my inquiry is based on my teaching of student teachers participating on a 1-year pedagogy course here in Norway.

My feedback was extremely helpful and has led me to reflect further. I seem to forget at times that this course is about my practice and I need to keep that in the forefront continuing into Module Three. I have experienced that I get involved in the “academics” of the course (e.g. composing a literature list, how to write a proposal plan), that I forget the whole reason why I am enrolled on the course! I am still a bit reluctant to discover why I have the perspectives I have, but I know that to proceed, I need to question myself. I have never previously reflected on why I have the views I do. Are they really my views or was a seed planted and I’ve never had the need to think about them or reconsider them?

Receiving feedback about my literature review had me contemplating about what have I learnt in the past 30 something years I’ve been teaching.  Without a doubt, my practice has been traditional (in relationship to the culture I live and work in), and I have been, to a certain degree blind to developments within the dance world. I have been recommended to extend my reading as I tend to separate body and mind in learning. The theory of Dualism was something new to me and I have been advised to look into literature (i.e. Dewey) that bridges the dualist tradition. I too, need to expand my knowledge about teaching and learning that are not so obvious to me. Claxton and Atkinsons’ book The Intuitive Practitioner: On the Value of Not Always Knowing What One Is Doing has been recommended.

It was pointed out that I need to employ in a stronger engagement with the Skype discussions and blogs and this is a valid point. I find these modes of learning quite challenging. I do understand the value of these learning methods, and I am determined to be an active participant in the coming months. Overcoming certain obstacles in the Skype talks, (that may give the impression I am more of a listener than a contributor), is an element that I wish to improve.


Saturday, 13 May 2017

HI, I would like to talk about the use of music in ballet classes, continuing where we left off from last Sunday´s morning talk. I find this topic very interesting as I see how different types of music influences the class atmosphere and motivation. I like to change the class music from the ”traditional” type of music for ballet classes to pop, jazz or whatever the pupils ask for. I was wondering when we were discussing this though, what are our experiences are with either a pianist or a playlist? I have used both  and I feel the difference is significant. With a pianist, it is almost like the pupils ”remember” that they are in a ballet class, maybe because they associate her with playing for them? They seem to maintain the classical style. With a playlist, the class is very different as it almost becomes a jazz class! Could this be because their association with a playlist is influenced by their free time, interest in music or being a teenager/young adult? Their movements become freer and the quality changes. They is no doubt that the contrast in the music has an effect. I am aware when making a class to pop music that I need to try and find music that will bring out the same aesthetics as the movements/exercises they are used to, I´m not always successful in that! Could that contribute to their change in style or difference in their musical quality?

As a result of this conversation, the past week I´ve been asking my pupils how often they would like to have non-classical music for their classes. I was really surprised as the majority said they enjoyed having it as a ”special treat” but would not want it frequently. A couple even commented that it was also the classical music that motivated them to do ballet!

Does anybody have any thoughts on this topic, would love to hear them!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Hi Everyone, I have recently finished teaching a group of students in higher education and have been reflecting a lot about recent events. Working towards their exam class, which was taught and practised over a six-week period, they asked me if they could have a” fun and cosy class”, as some thought this would motivate them towards their exam. This in turn, has me reflecting and thinking about my role as a” motivator” at this level. Teaching at recreational level I will often alter my class either by changing the music (swapping classical for pop music), allowing them to swap their uniform for colourful dance clothes, bring a friend day, etc. The list is endless as we know, but should the role as motivators to our pupils and students stop at a certain point? At a higher level of education is their motivation not intrinsic? Are they not there because they want to enter the profession? I think back to my education, and of the tedious repetition of doing syllabus class day in day out for years, yet on a” low” period, we all had to find ways of motivating ourselves. Has education and society changed, so we now have more responsibility to motivate our students even when they are adults? With more focus on students taking responsibility for their own learning and becoming autonomous learners, I would presume that self-motivation is an element of this. Providing a safe learning environment is the responsibility of the educators, but surely the students to need to accept a certain amount of responsibility? I have no objection dropping a technique class for something else that day, but should a” cosy” class motivate them towards their exam? I would think that an exam is a motivating factor.

I would love to hear any opinions on this subject as it has me a little perplexed and questioning what is my role as a teacher at this level.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Working on module 2 has me continuously thinking and wondering. Still indecisive about my research topic I have been throwing myself into reading different articles, and I have to admit that I believe I have been living in my own bubble for some time. With my blinkers on, I have had a strong opinion of what I consider dance is and how it should be taught. Ive always thought about myself being open-minded and embracing change, but I see this may not be the case. In todays world where dancers have to be adaptable and versatile, I wonder why I havent adapted (or have I and dont acknowledge it?) Is it time for change on a higher level (what harm would it do to try?).

Speaking to my advisor last time, I aired my concerns that my topic may have some consequences which could affect me. I am, of course jumping to conclusions as I dont know the outcome. So Ive been questioning what truth is.  My perception of truth is connected with my world, my reality and what I believe to be right or wrong. But my world has changed dramatically over the past years, yet Im still living and working in my truths of yesteryear. Working deeper for this module I am trying to expand my horizons and question what do I actually know, and am I certain of it? If not, is it such a crisis? Knowledge is ongoing, never ceasing to stop, this I have to keep in mind.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Hello Everybody!  After the Skype meeting yesterday I am feeling a little apprehensive about what module 2 is going to hold for me. I have been feeling up and down about it, and I don´t know why. I learnt so much about myself and my practice in Module 1 but this module is daunting to me. I wonder if I feel ”safer” when I am talking and writing about myself, I expect because I am not treading on anybody´s toes so to speak.

I received feedback that I need to be more critical and maybe it is this I am troubled over (yes, I know it is a major point at Masters level!). What if my opinions are silly or ridiculous, not worthy of the paper they are written on? How can I think deeper and not just on the surface? What if someone confronts me about my views, could I stick up for my beliefs or would I ”keep the peace?” These are questions that I seem to be reflecting on. Module 1 didn’t just make me reflect on me as a teacher but also as a human being. Recent events have made me think about my personality, which in turn has had me reflecting on my beliefs and views both professionally and personally.

I have been thinking about a topic and I am indecisive. I know I want to pick a topic that interests me, and will have an impact on my future practice but what? I enjoyed writing a particular AOL and this maybe a possibility, but the challenge is to find literature. I had difficulty finding sufficient literature for the AOL so how will a research paper go?

Maybe it is to go with my gut feeling and tackle these issues when and if they occur. This surely is part of the process?

I would love to hear anybody's thoughts!


Luckily I had not posted this before I went to work, and reading it back I can see how this reads. I’m realising that this journey is not just about my practice but opening my horizons and exploring more and developing. Maybe there is a reason there isn´t so much literature on my choice of topic, maybe it hasn´t been written about before? That could be exciting, researching an area which has not been explored and researched. What could I contribute, that is an exciting question!