The girl in that image is my 13 year old daughter, Leslie. If you ask her, who she is...her reply would be 'A dancer!' If you ask me one thing that I regret about my childhood, I would say "Not becoming a dancer!" Now I know I would never have been a professional dancer, but I love to dance, still to this day. My grandmother owned a dance studio, so when I turned 5, I took my first class from her. According to her, it would be my last class. I apparently marched up to her at the end of that first class and told her "I don't want to do this." and so that was the end my dancing career.
I was the girl on the right. I loved to breakdance (cardboard and all) and do hip hop. To my grandmother, that was not dancing. So instead of joining her studio, my best friends and I created our own dances and found our own places to perform (my friend's dad's tire shop 😂). Later, my grandmother started offering Jazz classes at her studio, so I gave it a whirl. I went to the first class and never returned. I loved the style, the teacher was great! But I didn't think I was great...I didn't believe in myself. To me, all of the other students were dancers and I was an imposter. I let my fear rule me and I regret it! Unfortunately, it took me until about a year ago to adopt the "Leap" philosophy of life. Now I just say "yes" to new adventures and figure out the how, along the way. Since doing so, my whole world has changed!
I have spoken to enough educators to know that the one thing holding many back from their great...is fear. A few years ago, a colleague told me she envied me...WHAT? She envied that I just tried things with my students...she said she couldn't do that because she was afraid of failing in front of them. We need to change this. We need to take risks for our students, so we can give them the maximum experience AND we need to instill risk taking within them.
When I was in the classroom, one of my favorite things to do was put on a class musical. It was always so amazing to see students shine in a different element. I would hold 'auditions' to place students where they could be their best.
My fourth grade year, as I looked down the line of students that were trying out for the solo song...I was shocked and admittedly a little worried when I saw James in that line. James is one of my "heart students". He struggled academically and socially and felt very little self worth. A month before this audition, he had threatened to hurt a girl in our class and later revealed to me that he wanted to kill himself because his dad made him feel worthless. We got him the help he needed at the time and he seemed to be doing better. But this quiet, shy, sad kid was going to sing? Who am I to be a roadblock, but I did hold my breath as he began.
When that kid opened his mouth...I cried! I looked over at my friend who was the chorus teacher and was met with tears streaming down her face. I looked at the other students in the class and their mouths were gaping and some had tears in their eyes as well! This kid had the most beautiful voice! But more than that, you could feel the emotion behind it. It was incredible! The class gave him a standing ovation and he grew about two inches that day.
Needless to say, he got the part. Whithin that, he gained much needed confidence! The change in him socially AND academically was insane! He was a new kid! The best part, was that he knew it AND his dad knew it. Dad was a tough character, very intimidating. But he came up to me after the performance, with tears in his eyes to thank me. He thanked me for showing him how great his son was. We cried together and I explained that it was all James...HE took that leap! It breaks my heart to imagine what his trajectory would have been had he not done so. He never would have known his great! He would never have known what it feels like to fly! James's decision to leap, was really a life changing moment as I have followed up on him as he moved through school and life.
It is imparative that we model and intstill such risk taking in our students. Let's give them a safe place to leap and fall and leap again...they will eventually fly! It could be transformational!
Mother, Teacher, Presenter, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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