Before I identified as a director, or a choreographer, or a researcher, I knew I was an educator. I noticed a distinct thrill as I stepped into the classroom and felt the balance between offering up knowledge on the things I loved most and receiving ideas, questions, and new knowledge in return. It is here in this place of mutual exchange that my brain is most awake. Practicing my skills as an educator has made me a better student, a truer listener, and a more engaged human.
At the heart of my teaching style is a combination of movement-driven investigation and practiced reflection. I came to dance later in my life and am largely inspired to infuse kinesthetic learning into my classroom to aid students in recognizing that they have intelligent moving bodies that can work independently or collaboratively in a community space. After specializing in STEAM and arts integration for many years, I am certain there is no topic that can’t be moved. I ask students of all ages to dance math problems, embody stories, and re-imagine the structure and design of our classroom through on-our-feet exploration.
Beyond moving together as a group, I encourage students to navigate self-reflection and critical thinking with their peers. In order to break down hierarchies built into the role of an educator, I work to place value on student voices through peer feedback and the use of “I see, I notice” language rather than “I like, I didn’t like”. As a result, it is less about what I value as an instructor and more about what the entire group is noticing, chewing on, and ideating. Rather than directly providing answers, I aim to offer a range of tools to inspire self-directed student learning. A large part of this is in developing lesson plans that are flexible and working quickly on my feet during class. When I think towards student-centeredness in planning and facilitating, I find that my curriculum remains fluid and can evolve with each group of students.
My creative research practice enables me to teach with an open-mindedness about research and academic possibilities in order to give students the space to take risks and pioneer new work in their fields. I do not believe that I have all of the answers and am ever eager to learn alongside my students as a partner in the investigative process. This looks like co-directing with teen interns that are learning how to direct, leading fully improvised play sessions with caregivers and their children, and asking educators to share lessons that merge their style with the techniques I have offered in professional development sessions.
As someone who specializes in early childhood education, play is also present and purposeful in my work with students of all ages. This manifests in both my high capacity for chaos and my understanding that a silent or still student does not indicate a disengaged student. In light of the pandemic, much of my teaching over the last two years has been focused on how to pair play with rest. This looks like setting boundaries for myself and encouraging students to engage in transparent dialogue about what they need from me and their peers in their classroom experience.
There are many other metrics by which I gauge the success of my classroom, particularly in thinking about what community feels like. I look for joy and laughter. I welcome off-topic connections, frustrated question-asking, and honest moments of confusion. I aim to be generous with myself when a lesson goes awry and generous with my students when their brains are struggling to make connections. By letting everyone in the room be human, I can create greater space for student personalities, learning styles, and unexpected knowledge generation.