The spring semester dance elective was a wonderful exploration of choreographic principles and how to tell a story without being too literal and didactic. How do we let the dance speak for itself? The following is a beautiful description of the artistic journey that Rachel took through the course of the semester and her culminating work:
"Before choreographing this dance we looked at the story of Esther. We read about her unwavering faith and courage to go beyond what was expected of her. Esther had to wear a mask for so long because her true self was unacceptable to others, but when she found strength in God and let the world see the real her they found a beautiful and strong leader. We found the song, "The Real Me" by Natalie Grant, which talks about God's perfect image of His creation. He sees the person underneath the mask. The song spoke to our ideas of being bounded by stereotypes, misconceptions, and expectations that are put on everyone. It continues to say how God releases us from this bondage because He sees the real us. The real us may be tattered, scarred and ﬂawed, but He only sees the perfection that He created. When we look past the views of other people and seek how God sees us, we begin to see ourselves in the eyes of love. We do not have to be bound up by preconceived notions, but rather be freed in the freedom that comes from God. When we look through His eyes we can see how the "real me" should be perceived, with love and conﬁdence. We must be like Esther and be conﬁdent in God's love in order to break out of our shell and be what He truly intended us to be, His image."
Thank you Rachel for your vulnerability and bravery in sharing this gift with your school.
Lots of posting today... But this is mostly so that I remember what I'm thinking about. This video is the culmination of a project that I did with the 4th grade class. We spent the early part of the project listening through Marc Anthony's description of himself on his official music video. The students then wrote a description of themselves based on similar phrasing, but personalized to themselves. We learned the first verse and the chorus of the song, and my hope (too idealistic?) is that the language from the song will become part of the fabric of their Spanish brains. Finally, we learned Salsa as we listened to the song. This became an opportunity to incorporate some cultural elements into the project, and it also gave my energetic 4th graders a chance to get out of their seats which was a win for everyone.
I want to keep doing stuff like this, but stuff like this takes a LONG time. Am I ok with that? How can I make a project like this beneficial on multiple levels so that it's worth the time and energy?
Overall, it's fairly easy to justify this type of project in an elementary classroom where I am the visiting teacher once each week. I am not grading these students. I only see them 25 minutes per week. I don't have as much responsibility for hard academic work. I am allowed to be the 'fun' teacher in this context. How do I transfer this to my middle and high school classrooms? I believe it's worth the work to figure that out.
Google+ does this great thing where they publish stories for you made of your own pictures and locations. Click on the picture to see an example. I'm still trying to figure out just how to manipulate the story, but it's an interesting way to think about some a different way of sharing a student journey through the school year.
This is the time of year that feels like an important time for reflection. If I don't reflect now, I won't remember all the new thoughts that I had going through this year, and I will become stagnant. Here is what is on my mind lately:
1. The importance of story - Story is a powerful tool, hence the Bible, the ongoing popularity of LOTR. We love stories. It's why we watch movies. So, if language is going to be powerful and engaging it needs to also somehow be part of a larger story that students are invited to participate in. TPRS is a language teaching tool that starts to get at this, but is it enough? I'm particularly thankful here for ideas like MOVIE TALK. One goal that I have moving forward is to have more conversations with the wonderful counselor at BCA, Pam Halligan about STORYLINE design.
2. Taking advantage of the 'Selfie' generation - My students all want to be famous (more or less). One thing that I have learned this year is that I truly enjoy making videos/taking photos of great work that my students are doing in class. They seem to be more engaged in writing a play or reading a story aloud if they know that their completed work will be available to a more public audience. Here is my first try at this type of work.
3. If we are going to teach collaboration we must be doing it as well - I had an opportunity this year to work with our science teacher and tech administrator on a collaborative field trip and follow up project. It was amazing (and challenging) to share space in each other's rooms and schedules. I had to be comfortable with kids working on science work during Spanish time and vice versa. A great challenge to this kind of work was figuring out how to assess students fairly and across our two classrooms.
4. We have to get OUT of the classroom - Particularly with my high school classes, I have the gift of small class sizes. I can fit a whole class in my mini van. Why have I not done more of that this year? One time - ONLY ONCE - I took my 10th graders out for lunch at a local restaurant. We tried new foods and they ordered in Spanish and then conversed in Spanish over lunch. It was amazing! They realized that Spanish has real application, and I realized that they can behave outside the walls of the school. They were called to something outside themselves and they responded well! I wish I had done this at least once each quarter. Next year I really hope to start to build an ongoing relationship with one outside resource.
I'm sure there's more, but I think these are some of my top reflections as I go into the summer. Thoughts? Feedback?
Shannon Norquist, teacher of Spanish and Dance at Barrington Christian Academy, mother of 3 lovelies, wife to an artist, modern dancer, daughter to the King.