“I love all the dance moves you taught us and how almost all the lessons you taught was what we were learning in class. I think it helped me understand everything better.”
“It was so awesome to learn the life cycle and heredity through dance.”
“Things have made more sense to me after you have taught them.”
“You helped me a lot on science. I have been getting better grades since we have been seeing you.”
These are just a few samples from the sweet notes I received from my students in BYU’s ArtsBridge program my last day of teaching. This last semester I had the opportunity to be a dance scholar in the BYU ArtsBridge program. As an art scholar, you work with a classroom teacher to assist in integrating arts in the classroom. After participating in an Arts Leadership Academy, a teacher chooses an art form they want to have more practical experience in, whether it be dance, music, drama, or visual art. Then, they are paired with a BYU student, or an Art Scholar, who has an interest in that particular art form. The student visits this teacher’s classroom at designated times to show them, as well as help them, teach their core curriculum through the art form to improve the students’ academic comprehension. A program of this sort has been implemented in over 30 universities throughout the United States!
I was assigned to work with Mrs. Washburn and her 5th grade class at Alpine Elementary. I was so excited because this is one of my favorite elementary school ages! Looking back at my experience, I am amazed at how even though I was there to help Mrs. Washburn, I grew so much as a future teacher as well.
During my teaching, I was lucky enough to get to use the gym in the school. This was both a blessing and a curse. It gave us lots of room to move, but also made the students think they could spend this time goofing off. Consequently, I became really focused on improving my management skills. I began walking around the students, specifically by those who were talking, rather than just standing or pacing in the front of the room. This improved focus because the students never knew where I was going to walk next, and continually having a new place to look increased attention span. I also learned to wait for their attention. I am not a huge fan of yelling, so one simple way I get attention is to silently wait. The students knew that this meant I wanted their attention and they were good about helping each other be quiet. To wait like this can sometimes be awkward, but is often a very useful tool. At other times, I would use the way Mrs. Washburn gets attention in the classroom since they were already familiar with the method. She yells “ocean!” and the students respond with a hand signal that look like waves while saying “shhh!”
One other management skill I worked on was to change the volume of my voice. It is easy to find a comfortable volume that you always use. It feels like the louder you get, the more the students can hear you and will listen. Often, the opposite is true. When you speak softly and quietly, the room quiets down because they want to hear what you have to say. Your words often become like a “secret” they want to hear. They have to really focus to know what the next directions are.
These are just a few of the skills I got to improve with BYU’s ArtsBridge program! This opportunity opened my eyes to even more ways the art form of dance can be used! Having to come up with effective lesson plans in an efficient amount of time was really good for me, got me more excited for the future, and gave me confidence in my abilities. This experience gave me a glimpse of the future and a sliver of how tiring but rewarding teaching is! Whether you are a teacher looking for more creative ways to teach or a student with a passion for the arts, I highly recommend checking out the ArtsBridge program!
For more information or to get involved, visit http://education.byu.edu/arts/arts_bridge