Building on the success of our first Leadership Institute of 2013-14, Luna launched cohort two with six talented dance educators. Read their biographies and goals today and check back in to note their progress along the way. Luna’s Dance Education Leadership Institute (DELI) is made possible with funding from the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation.
Jakey Toor is an itinerant dance teaching artist, working with the San Francisco Unified School District’s Visual and Performing Arts Department (VAPA). She teaches weekly dance classes to the entire school population at four sites: Argonne, Longfellow, John Muir and Cesar Chavez elementary schools. On the average, Jakey teaches six classes per day, meaning that on any given week she works with 600 students, 30 classroom teachers, and 4-6 principals and vice principals.
When asked what brought her to this work, Jakey replied, “a very clear idea of what I didn’t want to do, passion for movement and a fortunate happenstance.” With a BA in theater, a portfolio of solo performance work and TA experience, she found herself with sufficient credits for a multi-subject credential and supplementary authorizations to teach both theater and dance in elementary settings.
Jakey approaches her work with an inquiring mind. Initially, she was not comfortable with the idea of socializing students and continues to question whether the teaching she is required to do aligns with her values. To help her with that, she established a blog, Artists in the Classroom as a grounding, virtual space to maintain her reflective practice habit. When asked what she does to keep herself engaged, inspired, open and ready, Jakey responds that “because reflection, documentation, writing and technology keep me engaged and inspired, I process, share and keep track of my experiences through blogs.” She takes class to “stay on the ball and in my body” and sleep is high on her priority list. She sets an alarm clock to tell her what time to go to bed. Jakey also meditates on a daily basis.
After three years of teaching 1,700 children each year, Jakey’s lessons learned include:
1) Self care. Sleep is essential. “If I have to choose between prepping or sleeping, I’m better off sleeping, even if it means that I walk in a little under prepared. For me, the presence that comes with rested, wakeful-ness is more valuable than a full completed lesson plan.”
2) Be Yourself. “Being genuine, honest and real will get you far. There is no need to convince anyone of anything. Just do your work and be who you are. Bringing your authentic and present self to the table is enough.”
3) Neither a Victim nor Martyr Be. “I am not a victim of the teaching profession, my schedule or my work load, nor am I a martyr. I am choosing to engage with the world as a teacher and I have the ability to ensure that I show up present, operating from a rested, happy and healthy place.”
“Every site I work with has a very unique culture. I feel like a sort of cultural chameleon, constantly experimenting with and creating my role and the role of dance at a site. I feel like it is imperative to have positive, productive relationships with EVERYONE. If people don’t like you or find value in what you do, they aren’t going to help you or champion your cause. So, if I want a site to be on board with dance, 1) I have to provide a service that people perceive as valuable, and 2) I have to welcome and include everyone, every step of the way. That means I am in constant communication with the principal and teachers, and also the support staff and custodians. Because if I don’t have a good relationship with the custodian, and s/he mops the floor after lunch on Friday’s, our class isn’t going to happen. Or, if a principal doesn’t find value in students dancing, they aren’t going to let four classes come together and rehearse their performance piece during “core” instructional time. All of these little things matter and add up and result in dance becoming a valued part of a school’s culture.”
Outcome: Luna has been engaged in an action research on parent-child engagement through dance with researcher, Edward Warburton, PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz. Read about the professional development outcomes from our first year in the case study titled, Improving Teaching Practice Through Action Research. After two years of extensive data collection, our research paper is complete and submitted for publication. Overall our findings indicated that families participating in MPACT classes during the period of study (2010-12) demonstrated a notable increase in engagement at ACTIVITY and INTEREST levels.
Process: This study examined three levels of engagement: the most basic (activity) measured by general excitement and attention; an intermediate level (interest) measured by a specific focus and connection to another; and an advanced level (mimicry) wherein people consciously or unconsciously mimic another’s gestures in conversation, creating the sense of being “on the same page.” Research has shown a high correlation between mimicry and feelings of trust and empathy. The research project was funded with an innovations grant by Alameda County Behavioral Health Services and our timeline can be viewed on their website. Prior to receiving the grant, we worked for two years with Warburton to craft our research question and methodology. During the period of funding, we created and tested the instrument, established inter-rater reliability, collected and analyzed data, presented two stages of findings in various professional forums and submitted our paper for publication.
Challenges: Due to the nature of volunteer participation, tracking growth of each family during the entire period was a challenge. We gathered aggregate data of all participants in the class and also looked more deeply at two families as case studies. We selected these families because of their commitment to regular attendance, as well as they represented the demographics of the families who typically attended MPACT classes.
Impact: Families do increase their level of engagement with each other, with dance content and with the entire class community over time. We noticed that there seems to be progression from what we came to call “I, We, Us” engagement over the course of relationship-based dance experience. Initially, each person needs to find dance for him/herself. They relate to their family members but it isn’t always through dance, it is in the “inbetween” moments. In a short while, they have dance in their own bodies and are able to use the curricular dance prompts to relate to family members in new and increasingly engaged ways. After consistent attendance over time, families begin to engage with the class community from the point of dyad, that is the “we” of parent-child(ren) become part of a culture of dancing families and see themselves as participants, or sometimes leaders, within that space.
The full study will be available online once we receive response from the research publication.
Summer is always intense for us at Luna. We hold week-after-week of dance camps for youth and week-after-week of workshop intensives for teachers and dance professionals. This year stretched our small staff to the brink as we added to the usual load a move to our “forever” space in West Berkeley and an intense hiring process.
But, ahhh, here we are. The beginning of semester, with those shadows already shifting and the weather hot, is showing the promise of what is possible for Luna in our new space. Nearly 40 professional educators and dancers launched their school year the Tuesday after Labor Day at a cocktail party to introduce folks to Luna’s Professional Learning services. This past Saturday, September 8th, approximately 70 families danced and played in our space. The group varied from families new to Luna, who happened by as they were out for a weekend bike ride, to MPACT veterans, to our staff’s families, to supporters from Luna’s inception. A fun time was had by all.
Today, after a recovery Sunday, I reflect on how far we have come, our place in space & time and my own mortality as a creator, teacher, director and dancer. Witnessing the shared ownership of Luna’s programs and activities by an extraordinarily competent staff, I feel excited for Luna’s future. I see that Luna will continue to evolve beyond the limits of my imagination, yet without veering too far off from its founding values. The goals of this year are to stabilize Luna in our new home, continue to build leadership capacity (with Staff and Board) and to establish our West Berkeley space as the dance village it has the capacity to be. [Read more about our village http://dancersgroup.org/programs_articles.php]
I now have the opportunity to reflect, articulate and begin moving toward those projects that I still wish to manifest before I retire. It is one of Luna’s greatest accomplishments that we are in a place that I can do so. So, I get to begin by writing the second edition of Body, Mind & Spirit IN ACTION, as well as its 3-volume companion on Dance in Early Childhood, Family Dance, and The Rigor of Creativity. We get to move toward our goals of starting the charter school I’ve dreamed of since I was a teenager and strategize a capital campaign to eventually purchase our home. All of this celebrates Luna’s adulthood. At 21, we’re old enough to gamble, but we’re placing safe bets on a foundation that has always done what we said we would do to bring the joy and power of dance to every child.
Teacher Profile: Erica Rose Jeffrey
Dance teaching artist, San Francisco Bay Area