I didn't come up the idea of dancing for learning. For older educators, "jump jam" is not too distant a memory. For lower grade teachers, music is almost a compulsory aspect to the school day. I was taking part in an American twitter chat earlier this year when I got involved in a fascinating side chat about how a Grade Four teacher in the Mid-West use music after each break to get the students energised and ironically academically back on-task. In a similar vein, many schools use music instead of bells to encourage student movement between classes. Furthermore as we all know, music can touch the emotions and motivate like few other things on earth.
To be honest, what is now know as #VIP sessions was initially a huge failure. Although the students were keen on the idea, I didn't do enough work on ensuring participant safety by establishing very clear "rules of engagement" before getting into the dancing. As a result, students feel unsure of what was expected of them and then participated very little. Once we discussed the activity, we established three clear guidelines
1 no recordings, 2)no criticism of anyone and 3)everyone had to be involved but the level of involvement was to be discretionary. For the video above, I first sought permission and even subsequent to this, students did not have to be in the video. Once we had this collective understanding and buy-in, I then set up an accessible Google Form for students to nominate their preferred music. This way, there could no criticism of this old guy's 80s bias and leanings. Since our chat, we've had increased enjoyment and participation each time. Some students are natural performers and lead with extraordinary enthusiasm and talent. Others with less natural attitude towards the sessions have shown tremendous courage and determination in breaking out of their comfort zone in a safe but supportive yet challenging context.
As far as I'm concerned, the #VIP sessions have been a great way to bond and energise the class. Each period doing it would be too much in my opinion and the activity would lose its appeal and uniqueness. To see the students' collaboration and support for each other has been an awesome experience and the dancing has also brought fun into the classroom and I'd argue, greater relevance and appeal to the students. Very few students are ever late to this Thursday class and I'd argue that many if not all of them secretly look to the #VIP dancing.
I also strongly believe that when students feel enjoyment and comfort in a subject, they are more likely to buy into the learning and subsequent achievement. The dancing of and with my students goes beyond symbolising that we are one team in terms of the learning process and journey. I think it emphatically shows that we are one team! I also think that my participation enables me to be seen as an accessible partner in their learning, on the level and a person behind a teacher.
Maybe Cyndy Lauper was partly right, "Girls just want to have to fun" but I'd add that boys do too and so do many teachers, particularly this one!