Straddle Stretch Forever

In an effort to keep my digital content focused on what my audience wants to see and to encourage myself to keep to routines that make me feel great physically, I’ll be focusing on stretching for a while!

When it comes to stretching, you should know that I like to keep it simple. There are a few stretches that I’ve been doing since childhood that still serve me well. One of these is the straddle stretch. This is my go-to stretch when I’m at home and feeling a bit antsy in the evening or after I’ve just entered a dance class and want to stake my claim to some space in the studio (typically a place at the barre where I can see myself dancing from more than 1 angle, or where I’m at the end so I can follow someone if needed, then challenge myself and use my good ol’ memory skills the rest of the time.)

To perform a straddle stretch, sit down on the floor in an open space, with your legs spread apart so that you can feel a stretch in your inner thigh. Be sure that your knees are facing up toward the ceiling and not rolling inward.

While sitting in the straddle stretch position, I like to point and flex my feet, focusing especially on holding the flexed position so that I get a good stretch behind my knees.

I also like to reach my arms forward, to deepen the stretch of my inner thighs. I then relax my head and neck and hold that position for several seconds.

To focus on one leg at a time, I like to tilt my torso all the way to one side, either touching the side of my torso to my leg or by lifting my arms (into a ballet high fifth position) and twisting my torso so that my chest goes toward my knee.

Should we do a straddle stretch every day for the next week?

Let’s do it.

Saumirah

Foggy Today? Focus on the Future

What keeps you going when you’re just not feeling it as a creative entrepreneur?

As I’ve said before: Even if we completely love what we do, we won’t love every single minute of every single day of what we do.

For example: I absolutely love being an entrepreneur and directing dance programs. But I strongly dislike returning phone calls (I prefer emails 100%), organizing information into spreadsheets, ordering costumes, booking performance locations, and more. But I made myself do those things when I was directing in-person dance programs because the return on the investment was so great. The kids loved it, and families wanted it. (This is a story for another blog, but I actually really struggled with even beginning to develop a performance program because I wanted to be so process focused. I love teaching technique. Performing was a great experience for me personally, but I never felt compelled to find and facilitate performance opportunities for my dance students until families expressed that they desired this from my program.)

When I worked as a classroom teacher, I loved being with my students, creating community, and finding different ways to open those little minds to understand new concepts. However, I completely hated (strong word, but likely extremely accurate . . . ) parent-teacher conferences (they always gave me extreme anxiety, even when the kids were A+ students), decorating my classroom, updating bulletin boards, and most staff meetings. But I made myself do it because decorating my room with student work made the faces of my kiddos just glow with enthusiasm or because it helped parents know what was going on in our classroom. Again, the return on the investment was worth it.

So, when I’m hitting a slump (as I am right now), and when I don’t want to do anything business related, I try to focus on the return. I try to remind myself that all of the work I’m doing will result in either an end goal toward which I’m working or that the work of the daily grind will continue to fulfill me, provide helpful information to my audience and clients, or put good into the world in the way that I feel compelled to do.

In short, when the now is foggy (or what it’s just outright terrible, horrible, no good!), try to focus on that potentially fantastic future feeling. You might find that the future isn’t so far away and that you’ll receive your ROI sooner than you think. Fingers crossed! ;)

Forever filled with the audacity of hope,

Saumirah

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: Double Plan

Happy Monday, Dance Friends!

Today’s dance classroom management tip, which comes from the book Teach Like A Champion 2.0 (paid link) is called Double Plan. To Double Plan is to plan both what you–the teacher–and the students will be doing at each point in class when you are writing out your lessons.

The text goes into detail about using a graphic organizer packet to guide the lesson and check for understanding in a traditional classroom setting. As a dance educator coach, I want to focus most on the idea of a T-chart that is mentioned. Using a T-chart lesson plan (i.e., get out a blank piece of paper and draw a huge T, so that there is a line going down the middle, creating two columns, and so that the top of the capital letter T allows you to label each column) allows us to write side-by-side what the students will be doing while we are saying or doing what we plan to do.

“It’s natural for teachers to write lessons that focus on what they will be doing: which key points they will cover, questions they will ask, activities that will facilitate, work they will assign, and so forth. Still, the most effective teachers I know Double Plan, that is, they plan at least as carefully what their students will be doing each step of the way” (p. 143).

Though not written in a T-chart style, you can see simple examples of Double Planning in the Dance Daze® Lesson Plans for Dance With Me and Ballet and Tap over at DanceEdStartup.com.

According to the text, “Double Planning forces you to consider how you will at each step hold students accountable for the content and quality of their work” (p. 149). I believe that Double Planning forces educators to consider the desired behavior that they want or expect during each part of their lesson.

For example, in your dance class, should students be copying your movements while you explain or should they be standing respectfully and observing as you demonstrate? If students will have props, how should they hold their props and when will they pick up their props? What should the rest of the class do while you are giving corrections to one student?

During my teaching residency program and during my years of working as a classroom teacher, I was taught and came to deeply understand that we must teach our students everything we want them to do. We should never assume that our students already know how we want them to behave or what we want them to understand unless we have explicitly taught them in many different ways, reviewed our expectations, and practiced desired behavior many times over the course of a session of classes or a dance year.

The next time you plan your dance lesson, remember to Double Plan so that you can be better prepared for a successful lesson with students behaving the way you want them to behave!

Dance Classroom Management: Joy Factor

Hello Dance Educator Friends!

Let’s dive in.

Last week, I wrote about using the behavior management technique called Every Minute Matters in the dance classroom space. When this technique is at the forefront of our mind, we are reminded how precious the tool of time is for ourselves and our students and that we can honor that valuable resource by filling each minute we have with our students with valuable educational experiences and instruction.

I like that technique. I believe in it. It is at the core of my educational philosophy.

However, I also believe in fun. I also believe in creating magic and intentionally inserting happiness into everything. Luckily my friends, that is where the Joy Factor has a place.

Technique #62 in Teach Like A Champion 2.0, Joy Factor, is essentially celebrating the work of learning.

Here is a description of Joy Factor from page 442 of Teach Like A Champion 2.0:

It turns out that finding joy in the work of learning — the Joy Factor — is a key driver of not just a happy classroom but a high-achieving classroom. People work harder when they enjoy working on something — not perhaps in every minute of every day, but when their work is punctuated regularly by moments of exultation and joy.

Five categories for incorporating Joy Factor into your teaching are listed and described as follows:

  1. Fun and Games: These activities draw on kids’ love for challenges, competitions, and play (p. 443).
  2. Us (and Them): Kids, like everybody else, take pleasure in belonging to a group. One of the key functions of cultures — those in the classroom and more broadly — is to make members feel that they belong to an important “us,” a vibrant and recognizable entity that only some people get to be part of. Through unique language, names, rituals, traditions, songs, and the like, cultures establish “us”-ness (p. 443).
  3. Drama, Song, and Dance: Acting things out and singing about them can be an exceptional way to remember information. To learn a song about something — especially one that’s a tad absurd or unusual or one you sing regularly — is, for many, to know it for life (p. 444).
  4. Humor: Laughter is one of the base conditions of happiness and fulfillment, making it a powerful tool for building an environment of happy and fulfilled students and teachers. A tool this powerful should be used (p. 444).
  5. Suspense and Surprise: Routines are powerful drivers of efficiency and predictability. They also make occasional variations all the more fun, silly, surprising, and inspiring. If harnessed judiciously, the unexpected can be powerful (p. 445).

There you have it, friends! Let me know how you’re using Joy Factor in your dance classroom space! Drop a comment on this post, or email me at saumirah@dancedaze.org.

Have a fantastic week!