A few weeks ago in one of my dance classes, our teacher, Alisa Gillespie, saw that the entire class was exhausted. Many of us were rehearsing for upcoming performances and our bodies were a bit worn out. Our movement was looking stale and she could tell we needed a change. For the entire class, we tried completely new activities and exercises. Instead of working on our dance technique, we became more connected as a class and learned more about ourselves. I know I took away a lot more out of that class than I would have just practicing technique. I was grateful that Alisa could really “see” us, “hear” what we needed, and was willing to change her plans.
The next week in class, on another tiring day, I thought Alisa would do something similar as the week before. Instead, she told us to work extra hard. We did some exercises to help wake up our bodies and minds as we continued with technique class. The “special” class we had done the week before had been a privilege, not an expectation. Though I was so tired at the beginning of class, by the end, I left invigorated and ready for the rest of my day.
A couple days later, right in the middle of working on an exercise, one of the students raised her hand and asked a question. After answering the question, Alisa could tell that we were still not exactly sure what she meant. She decided it was a valuable question and she took the rest of class time to work on understanding the concept this student asked about. Again, by the end of class, I gained so much out of the class and obtained a completely new understanding of something I thought I already knew.
So how did she know that this was what our class needed on these particular days? I am still not completely sure, and she may not know either. However, here are a few tips from Alisa’s class, as well as other experiences, that I appreciated and hope to implement in my future classroom:
1. Whether it be vibes, intuition, the Spirit, or all three—be in tune and listen to it! Listen with more than your ears so you can understand the needs of your students. It can be difficult, it may take practice, and it may come easier to some more than others, but it is possible, and can be an important tool for success in the classroom.
2. It’s important to value students questions or comments and be okay with adapting your lesson plan as needed. Get through the required content, but do it in a way that will be most beneficial to your students. This may mean pushing through the content, or it may mean changing it up to avoid becoming stagnant. To help with this, have a “toolbox” of ideas, activities, and exercises that you can pull from and aid your students’ learning and understanding.
3. This concept applies to working with individuals as well. Learn to see with more than your eyes what an individual student may need. We are all so unique, so it takes time to really listen and understand them through what they are saying as well as what they may not be saying.
Try to make connections and really look at someone today!
Any other ideas on how to see with more than your eyes and hear with more than your ears?