About three months ago, my previous vice principal, Kristi, was inspired by a high school dance experience. Today I was also inspired by dancing, but in a slightly different way. This afternoon was our Talent Show, and thanks to one of our Kindergarten classes, we were able to join along in their break dancing performance. I happily volunteered to sit on the floor and record the performance (shared below).
As I was watching the video after school today, here’s what I noticed:
- Students were not focused on perfection. They were focused on having fun.
- Even when they made mistakes, they got back up and tried again.
- Students took risks: with trying new moves and performing in front of a large audience.
- All students that wanted their moment in the spotlight, got it. There were no restrictions! Not everybody wanted this time, and that was fine, but these other students felt equally important cheering on from the sidelines.
I don’t know when or how it happens, but at some point in our lives, our thoughts on subjects in school are often based on “how well we do.” Phrases like,
- “I’m not a good math student.”
- “Science isn’t for me.”
- “I can’t draw.” (Now replace “draw” with paint, sing, dance, act, etc.).
are often heard. Instead of being willing to take the risks and perform in front of an audience, we’re concerned about how we look or how well we do. We stop being brave!
I say this because I am this person. Yesterday, one of the students in my class was away, and another child was worried that she would have to perform alone. I promised to go up with her if this was the case. We had to practice this option yesterday, and the very thought of dancing on the stage terrified me. It made me want to throw up, pass out, and/or do both at the same time. Would I have honoured my promise today if this student was away? Yes! But I am so very glad that I didn’t have to. Why? Because I felt embarrassed. I didn’t think that I was good enough. I was afraid that people would laugh at me.
I know from my experiences practising in the classroom that my students wouldn’t laugh at me, but would cheer me on. Nevertheless, that voice in my head convinces me otherwise. And the thing is, I really want that voice to change, and I also don’t want my students — the brave, amazing, inspiring people that they are — to get that voice in their heads. If they could always take the risks that they did today, imagine what’s possible! When and how do our opinions of ourselves change? Is there a way to stop this, or if it’s already happened, is there a way to go back? If only I could figure this out, maybe one day I’ll stand on that stage, bravely ready to bust a move! 🙂
Aviva, your post really made me think. So true, at what point in our lives did we start to worry so much about what people think of us? When did these feelings of inadequacy come about? How do people who don’t have these feelings conquer them? I wish I could go back to when I would dance solo in front of hundreds of people and knew I did a good job without anyone telling me. What exercises can we do to help our students maintain that risk taking attitude and not stress about failure. Can we get them to adopt and strengthen the attitudes they have on the sporting arena? I want back my Miss Confident attitude where I didn’t worry so much about who would laugh once I knew I had given it my all.
Thanks for the comment, Jo-Ann! You ask some great questions here. I wish that I knew the answers. I wonder if some of them lie in the need for “positive self-talk.” We teach students to self-reflect all the time. Maybe we also need to teach them to think aloud and encourage themselves to take risks, and praise themselves for jobs well done. Maybe part of it also comes down to marks. In younger grades, students are often encouraged to just “try,” but as they move up in the grades, “trying” is accompanied more and more by a need to demonstrate certain skills. If students aren’t demonstrating these skills, marks fall. It’s hard to look at C’s and D’s and convince ourselves that we’re still doing a “good job.” If we continue to be praised and praise ourselves on effort and risk-taking, would our skills also improve? Even if not, could we convince ourselves that even if we’re not the best, we’re still worthy of that moment in the spotlight? Today’s Talent Show certainly had me thinking, and now you have me thinking more!
It’s an interesting thing to wonder…is it when do we lose our bravery or is it really when do people expect more moderate behaviour of us? Hmmm.
It’s an interesting question, Kristi, but in the case of performing in an assembly, isn’t it being brave versus being moderate? Do the two sometimes overlap?
Even if we think we should not bother about what people or audience think of us, we secretly seek their accolades. Our confidence boosts up when the audience is “wowing” or clapping at our performances. That is when we change opinion about ourselves saying that “yes, we can do it!”.
I feel the same thinking must be going through a student’s mind as he/she seeks positive feedback from the teacher which makes him confident that he can do Math, Science or even art. That is where the “A’s, B’s and C’s matter to them.
Thanks for the comment, Sandhya! I can see your point, but even before the audience started clapping yesterday, the students were ready, willing, and eager to perform. When do we lose this desire?
I think that even though marks might give one message, students can still receive positive feedback based on their work. Yes, there will be next steps, but can the feedback make the marks less meaningful, and therefore, the desire to keep trying, even stronger? What do you think?
I agree with you. Positive feedback precedes mark. I enjoyed watching the video. I can see that everyone including the teachers are enjoying the company of each other while performing.
Thanks Sandhya! I think that they were having a wonderful time, and not just performing, but enjoying it. That’s why I’d love to figure out a way to always make this happen.