I WANT to be paid to think.

I’m a hardcore entrepreneur. I live to create. I thrive on bringing ideas to fruition through the art of starting and developing business ventures.

But I’ve mentioned it before on The Happy Dance Podcast and I’ve mentioned it in my Lunchtime Entrepreneur Chats on Clubhouse: I like to keep some freelance work or a super easy part-time gig in my back pocket so that I can always make sure the bills are paid.

So the other day, when I was working at one of my part-time gigs, I overheard someone say, “I don’t get paid to think here!” He went to explain how, when he’s at work, he’s thinking about what he’s eating next or how he will be getting to the next level of a videogame, but not about the work he’s doing for the company.

I thought to myself: THAT’S what’s wrong with this situation. I WANT to be paid to think.

When I worked for a large charter school management organization a few years ago, I remember one of the principals was always emphasizing that we, as the teachers, were the experts in the room. She said this as a way–not to make us feel that we were all-knowing or that we should be teaching our students in a top-down way, but instead–to encourage us to feel comfortable and confident in our background knowledge, life experiences, and professional training to do our job properly. When I worked there, even on the really challenging days, I felt like I was getting paid to think.

When I’m running my dance programs, maybe a few parents think they’re paying me to entertain their child for an hour each week, but I think most parents knew they were paying me to:

  • Develop and facilitate engaging, challenging, and developmentally appropriate programs
  • Be the best or hire the best talent I could find to help their child discover and explore the art of dance in a safe and nurturing environment
  • Put money back into the business by the way of performance opportunities (including space rentals and costume purchases), buying and maintaining props (such as scarves, ribbons, balance beams, hula hoops, etc. for my Creative Movement classes and Dance Daze Birthday Parties)
  • Create appropriate music playlists that would guide the atmosphere of the class and support my instruction
  • Develop and maintain the best systems for relaying information, collecting payments, ensuring their child’s safety, and more.

When I’m working as an educator, I’m paid to think.

When I’m working in education, all of me matters.

My thoughts, experiences, and professional background are important because I’m taking on the extremely important work of supporting, informing, and influencing the minds and shaping the experiences of the next generation.

And I like it that way. I love being paid to think.

Any job that doesn’t pay me for this beautifully developed, empathetic, thoughtful, passionate, sensitive, curious mind of mine is 1) missing out and 2) will be short-lived.

PLEASE: Pay me to think. I like it that way.

Saumirah

Dance Classroom Management: Do Now

Happy Monday!

Today’s dance classroom Behavior Management Monday tip is Technique #20 in Teach Like A Champion 2.0–Do Now. It falls under the larger category of lesson structure, and it reminds us that our dance lesson plan begins as soon as the students arrive at our studio/stage/dance room door.

If you’ve spent time in a traditional academic classroom environment and have been there at the beginning of the day, you may be familiar with the idea of a “Do Now” activity. I have personally used this technique and seen this technique used for students of all ages, ranging from kindergarten through high school-aged students. When I was teaching in K-2 classrooms, we called this “Morning Seatwork” and I either kept the activities near my desk and distributed them each morning or (for older students), I created the packets by Friday and passed them out Monday morning for the students to keep in their Morning Seatwork folder for an entire week.

So, what is a Do Now actually, and what can it look like in a dance classroom environment? A Do Now is “a short warm-up activity that students can complete without instruction or direction from you to start class every day. This lets the learning start even before you begin teaching” (p. 161).

When the Dance Ed Lab visited Los Angeles in February of 2019, and I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in their introductory workshop for a weekend, we had a simple Do Now on the first or second day of our session. The instructions were written on a piece of sticky paper, and all program participants were told to grab a free DEL shirt and introduce ourselves to someone whom we had not yet met. This activity took only a few minutes, but it was a great way for us to acclimate to the dance classroom space, facilitate developing relationships among students in the class, and it required no teacher assistance or instruction.

While I got to the point of being super comfortable with my Morning Seatwork when I was teaching K-2 academics, I feel that this is an area where I would like to continue developing with my dance classes.

Typically, I instruct my students to come into the dance space, put on their dance shoes, and stretch quietly in the center of the floor until I tell them we are ready to begin class. With my youngest students, I encourage them to do exactly the same thing, though I add that they may, instead, sit quietly with their parents before class begins.

It fills me with joy when I see my 5 and 6 year-old dancers doing their straddle stretch or butterfly stretch before class. (They will usually say, “Hey, look at me! I’m stretching before we start!”) I love that they are taking ownership of their learning, setting the tone for their sacred dance class time, and focusing themselves before beginning this important time in their day.

In Teach Like A Champion 2.0, we learn that “An effective Do Now should conform to four critical criteria to ensure that it remains focused, efficient, and effective.” These criteria are listed below:

  1. The instructions should be in the same place every day.
  2. Students should be able to complete the Do Now activity without any direction from the teacher and without any discussion with their classmates. They should also not need any additional materials to complete the activity.
  3. The activity should take no more than 5 minutes to complete and no more than 5 minutes to correct/debrief.
  4. The activity should typically preview the day’s lesson/focus or review a recent lesson/skill that was taught.

I know that having an activity such as this is not the norm for a studio dance class space. Also, even when teaching dance in schools, there are typically very limited blocks of time during which the dance class can occur, so every minute is so valuable.

I think that if I was going to challenge myself to incorporate a Do Now into my dance classes, I would do this by having a small portable white board (or a tablet of some kind) that would have a specific stretch listed for the beginning of each class. For example, in very large font, I might write/type: “Put on your dance shoes, then do a straddle stretch while pointing and flexing your toes for 3 minutes.” For my youngest dancers who might not be able to read, I could explain this to them verbally and maybe even model the stretch to the earliest students before the rest of the class arrived.

In addition to focusing your students and allowing them to work with you to set the tone of the class before it begins, I think a Do Now is a great way to teach a specific skill (e.g., I said I would focus on teaching different developmentally-appropriate stretches each week) without taking away class time because it can begin before your “actual” lesson starts. Besides that it could create too much uncontrolled chaos before starting class, I suppose a dance teacher might also add some high-activity movements such as skipping, running in place, or jumping jacks as a Do Now activity before class begins. I think it would be fun to experiment with a variety of movement activities that the students can complete independently as a Do Now.

What are some ways you would incorporate a Do Now into your dance classes? Leave a comment below or email me at saumirah@dancedaze.org and let me know!