Monday, September 17, 2012

new class — Aspire Golden State Prep

Oh, dear — here it is more than two weeks into September, and I haven't posted yet this month! I hope I won't fall too far behind one this now that the school year is under way — back to prepping elementary visual art lessons (unfamiliar enough for me that I spend a lot of time at it). I've been meaning for weeks to write about another issue we had discussed at Luna's ASI — teaching "cultural" dance forms and authenticity — but that will have to wait until next time…

… because... I've got a new dance class this semester! It's at Aspire Golden State College Prep High School (or GSP for short), a charter middle- and high school in East Oakland (yay, back teaching in East Oakland, if only for one hour a day!). I'm teaching one beginning dance class, open only to juniors and seniors. So far I have nine students, some of whom are wonderfully enthusiastic and focused, and some of whom are more your typical teen beginning dance students, tending to waste a fair amount of time talking and giggling with each other... but I think a lot of that is self-consciousness and discomfort with something new, so will probably (I hope) diminish as we go along.

They have this feature in their system — a pretty excellent opportunity for the kids — where the juniors and seniors can take college classes in the afternoons (and be officially excused from their their afternoon classes on campus). So three of my students are only in my class three days a week (and in their college class on Tuesdays and Thursdays). It makes for interesting differentiated instruction, dealing with kids who are regularly gone — fortunately the ones who are gone twice a week are all in the really focused group, so they should be okay.

The main difficulty so far is… you guessed it, space! The space we are using is the lunchroom (well, actually about a third of the lunchroom), which needs to be cleared for my class every day. It's taken a few weeks to get through the channels and on the custodians' radar, so for these first few weeks I cleared as many tables and chairs as I could myself, leaving just enough space for my small class to do some (mostly axial) movement without seriously injuring each other. As I mentioned a few posts back, dance does not have anything like the ongoing need for supplies (books, art materials, whatever) of most other classes — but it is probably that big up-front investment in a dedicated space that prevents so many schools from even trying to start a program. I appreciate GSP for the desire and the will to start a dance class, even if there are some kinks in the support structure so far…

Meanwhile, we've done one week of introductory explorations and then a couple of weeks of jazz technique; in a day or two we'll move back into explorations (variations on a known phrase, now that we've got one they all know) and then on to their first choreography assignment. I can't wait to see how they do with their group work — it's kind of exciting going back to the beginning and starting a program from scratch!

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