“A deep frustration I experienced most of this year was around 2 things. 1) Constantly being told I couldn’t do something because of pandemic guidelines. I had to creatively investigate other options, develop skills to find a new avenue of possibility. For example, at our school each year we celebrate Chinese New Year with a large event. Because we couldn’t sing, wear lion dance costumes, use the lion heads, be close to each other, and we were separated in small cohorts, etc., I had to figure out how to approach this. Especially because this is a big tradition for our 6th graders; it’s like a coming of age event for them. So, I learned how to use iMovie (with the help of the students, YouTube videos, and IT support) and we created a story/play with no costumes that asked the question where are the lions? (because we couldn’t use them). We put the story in the context of the pandemic. The kids learned all the drumming patterns, and we added in socially-distanced dancing, storytelling and even some circus activities like juggling because a few of our students knew how to do it. The video was played for families as part of our Chinese New Year Celebrations. This was both a challenge and something that both the students and I felt good about.
2) Not having space or the space being inconsistently accessible or taken away. Yes, I enjoyed teaching outside. But with weather conditions, lack of outdoor on-campus space, and nearby local facilities not always being accessible, finding dancing space was a consistent inconsistency. I often had to create many back-up lessons for what if it rains today and I can’t take the kids out? Or what if I take the kids to the park but where we would dance is now filled with other people from the community playing soccer? Or the lower school yard is being parsed out so that lunch, recess, and PE can happen? Now dance is being squeezed in there too. (I have to say that one of the good outcomes that came from dance happening on the yard when other grades were having lunch or recess was that many of the other kids would watch and join us in our dancing from their roped off section. I also, would see TA’s stretching with us while they watched the other kids.) How will I adjust? I made so many adjustments this year. At times, I am amazed at how flexible I had to be moment to moment. Other times I feel thoroughly exhausted and frustrated by the constant unexpected shifts. However, in the process I gained access to new ways to teach, new places to have dance, and new tech skills gained. Most importantly, the students were happy and able to adjust. They are so resilient. They didn’t care as long as they could be with each other having fun learning. And we did. We had so much fun learning.
I had to learn and practice self-care behaviors and encourage the students to do so as a way to manage the intense challenges. Creating an attitude of care and service became an even greater value to focus on and it really went a long way. I would hear students talking with each other with compassion and friendliness. At times, I too was the recipient of this. For example a kid ran in front and opened the door for me. I asked her, “Are you a door monitor?” her reply, “No, it’s just the considerate thing to do.” When the students pass by security, maintenance staff I hear many “thank yous” from them. Some of the students even refer to them by their names. In an age of me, me, me, and immediate gratification, this pandemic has amplified some important values among our youth –kindness, care, and service.
Dance this year was all about finding joy even if we were talking about difficult issues. So we played games, told jokes, improvised funny scenes, took breaks to just be silly. We learned to enjoy each other and our limitations as best as we could with dignity, respect, and genuine well wishes for each other.”