Rise UP!

It’s always great to observe fellow Arts Corps colleagues. There’s so much to learn about their artistry, pedagogical practices, and personal relationship with their students. Just a few weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to do just that–observe fellow teaching artist, Stephany Hazelrigg at Aki Kurose.

What an awesome experience for me!

Besides the usual teaching of concepts, in this case, hip-hop vocabulary and dance moves, I found that Stephany was teaching an old and familiar concept in a whole new way.

Community.

I know I’ve written on this subject before and while I thought I had “community” well defined in my head, I now enjoy a much deeper understanding of this word than ever before.

You see, what caught my attention was her use of words and phrases that nurtured the idea of community and therefore were reflected in her actions.

For example, when two younger students began arguing, an older student jumped in and defended her friend. Instead of allowing the older student to take control of the situation, Stephany said- “will you be the older sister and mentor and step back?” This provided an opportunity for the two younger students to problem solve on their own and learn to communicate. As for the older girl, it allowed her to reflect and respond appropriately and maturely rather than to react defensively.

In another instance, as a young boy struggled teaching several dance moves to the class, Stephany reminded him, “remember, the goal as a leader is to not trick your community. Show them moves they can all follow.” As a result, the young boy chose simpler steps and taught them slowly so that all the students felt successful.

“Reset, Rewind, Recommit!”

“Rise up!”

“Celebrate and Elevate!”

Words and actions embracing and nurturing the true meaning of community.

It may seem basic and remedial, but in today’s world and with today’s generation, community is a hard concept to grasp. It’s not just about neighbors and neighborhoods. It’s about interacting with the people around us each and every day. Much of our youth today doesn’t know how to get along and communicate positively and effectively. We as teachers  have to tackle this problem and so much more in our classes. We’re not just teaching our artistry anymore, we’re teaching life long skills necessary to co-exist in our world. The fact is that we can’t really make an impact in our work until we’ve built a safe environment around us. We must all feel loved, accepted, and a significant part of a functioning community.

I left the class renewed, reinvigorated and eager to apply these ideas to my own students. I’ve always felt that even as a seasoned educator there is always room to learn new and old things.

After all, the key to perfecting our craft is to always remain life long students!

Thanks Stephany!

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