Every story in our Teaching Through the Pandemic series knocks our socks off with your devotion to your students and your profession. Read on to see what we mean…
Teaching Through the Pandemic: A Dance Teacher Perseveres
When school began this year, the mantra was “back to normal.” Could we have a performance on the stage? Sure! Could we invite an audience of (masked) parents to see the show? Of course! I was excited and began teaching with new enthusiasm. I was also mentoring two resident dance teachers, which meant I had two extra sets of hands, eyes, and ears. We set a date for the Winter Dance Concert: January 21st.
As Covid cases rose that fall, the live audience became questionable and students were in and out of class due to quarantine. We fought to stay prepared.
When we returned from winter break, it was no better. I caught COVID myself, and could not return to school on January 3rd. The drama teacher was nice enough to allow her classes to combine with mine. I tuned in virtually to say hello and tell students my expectations.
Pandemic teaching… and a union lock-out
Meanwhile, cases had spiked. Our teacher’s union wanted the district to switch to remote learning through January 18th in an effort to bring cases down. Teaching through the pandemic felt dangerous again. With my concert scheduled for the 21st, I asked the administration if I could push the concert to the following week. I made plans for online rehearsals for each class, made sure all of the dance Google Classrooms were up and running, and communicated the plans to my residents. All set? Not quite! We woke up the morning of January 5th with no access to our emails, Google Drive, or any school-related resources. We had been completely locked out.
The remote learning action lasted five whole school days. Absolutely no instruction took place on these days. Would my youngest dancers forget their dances during this time? Would we lose rehearsal momentum with the middle school dancers and cause them to feel anxious and scared to perform? Would we have any time to rehearse and get comfortable on the stage? These questions swirled around in my head as I sat at home, disconnected from all of my school planning materials. My teacher residents were instructed to report to the school, which gave them access to school accounts and documents. We kept in touch through personal emails and text messaging.
Learning to pivot
I was eager to find ways to connect with my students so they could practice their dances at home. But how? I dug into my personal Google Drive for anything that might be useful. During the 2020-2021 school year, I had shared choice boards, lesson plans, and videos with my mentees from NDEO. While sifting through these resources, I found some choice boards that I could edit for my second grade and kindergarten classes. I left the center square on my choice boards empty and asked my residents to create a link to our dance concert music in this square, using the music files on our shared Google Drive (the one I was locked out of). The residents completed the middle square on each homeroom’s choice board and posted them to Google Classroom.
Finally, I went onto our school’s Facebook page and wrote a note to parents. I told families how much their teachers missed them. I explained that all of us were working hard to prepare for schools to re-open, and I described how I was posting projects on Donors Choose to get costumes and jazz shoes for the Winter Dance Concert and organizing costumes for the show. Then I told them that if they wanted to, they could access Google Classroom from home. Teachers might be locked out, but students aren’t! Not only were parents happy to be provided some activity for their children to do while schools were closed, but several parents looked me up on Donors Choose and helped fund my jazz shoes project. The shoes arrived just in time for my concert!
Another pandemic roadblock
We resumed instruction on Wednesday, January 12th and I was faced with yet another challenge: we were no longer allowed to bring families into the school to “gather” in our auditorium. I think the littlest dancers were the most devastated by this news. “But I want my mommy to see me dance!”
We decided to hold four smaller performances on the date of the show, during class time. Students would perform for their peers instead of their parents. We still wore our costumes, used the new lighting and sound system, and made the show feel as close to the “real thing” as possible. We sat audience members in separate sections of the audience, and the students sat in every other chair for social distance. Homeroom teachers showed support by attending the show to see their students, which was as close to having a parent at the performance as we could manage. Students loved showing off their skills to their teachers! We recorded the show and are selling digital downloads for a small fee so parents can see the performance.
Was the show as polished and professional as I would have liked? No, it wasn’t. However, the students worked so hard and they were so proud to get on stage and perform their dances. The glimmer in their eyes told me it was a positive experience for them, and that makes it all worth it.
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