This past week was National Dance Week. We aren't a Dance School, but we sure are a School that loves to Dance! Enjoy reading this beautiful post written by the lovely Ms. Zoe, our in-house Dance teacher, among many other things, who reflects on not just Dance Week, but the embrace of originality here at VVA. It brought tears to our eyes reading it! Thank you so much, Ms. Zoe, for al the gifts you bring. We are a lucky bunch!
Dance is probably one of the most innate forms of language. From the time that we are young, it seems like such a natural response to allow our bodies to speak through movement. I can still remember the absolute weightless feeling of flailing my limbs about, in no particular fashion; mimicking flight. Each motion completely my own invention from the curl of my fingertips, to the point of my toes. This is what it felt like to be absolutely free and move with complete authenticity. As we get older, social pressures act as inhibitors to this freedom of movement. We become more controlled, more in our heads, and less in our hearts. Yet, still it’s there…the natural inclination to tap one’s foot, or to gently sway from side to side. It lives and breaths within each of us.
For generations dance has joined communities together, through social connection and communication. For some it’s been seen as a spiritual experience. It is tied to our culture and allows history to carry on throughout generations. Most importantly, it transcends the limits of social factors, and allows us to just be in union with each other in our most natural beautiful state…happy and free.
I am so lucky to get to experience the joy of dance on a daily basis working at VVA. When I was first asked to instruct the dance class at VVA, I was a little apprehensive. Would the students really want to dance so frequently? I was pleasantly surprised to find how eager students of all ages were to have the opportunity to express themselves through this unique art form. From the vivacious pre-k’s who throw their bodies about with liberty, to the mindful teenager who forgets to “be cool” for a moment, while practising their favourite corny dance moves. From the impromptu dance circles that erupt at lunch like a Disney musical, to the heartfelt story telling expressed through showcase dance routines… dance is everywhere in our halls.
In discussing what we would do to celebrate National Dance Week here at VVA, I became aware of just how much dance is part of our school culture. In registering for Dance Nova Scotia’s ‘Dare to Dance’ challenge, we needed to have our whole school dance for 20 minutes together. This is of course something that happens all of the time at our school, without even questioning it. We ultimately decided on some classic line dances, followed by a student-led “dance circle” that invited each student to showcase their unique abilities. As I watched our students so naturally form their “whole-school dance circle” with appreciation for each unique individual, I realized how very lucky I am to be a part of a school community where students feel free to be completely themselves.
Watching these children move with such truth and joy has encouraged me to get back to my own natural roots of dancing, of which I’d cloistered for so long. Years of formal dance training had made me focus on perfection, and I’d forgotten what it felt like to experience dance as a pure outpouring of the soul. There’s no greater joy than dancing freely with the kids, not caring how silly I look. I honestly think the more ridiculous that I am, the more the kids enjoy it. Perhaps we can all take a lesson from these young dancers about what it means to live creatively, and authentically. Perhaps the only thing that we need to do in order to keep that spark of innocence alive throughout our lives, is to just keep on dancing!
With all my heart,
In keeping with the theme of National Dance Week, I asked each of my dances classes to share what they love about dance. Here are some of their thoughtful responses:
Dragonfly & Manta Ray Class (pk-1)
“Dancing makes me really, really, really happy!” -Regan
“Dancing feels so good and gives me exercise.” -Mason
“Dance is exciting!” -Bria
“I like playing freeze dance.” -Christopher
Melksham Monsters & Kronosaurus Class (grade 2-6)
“When I dance, I feel like I’m in another universe, and I’m the only one in it” -Greyson
“Even when I’m sad, dancing makes me happy.” -Ariella
“I like dancing because it makes me feel good about myself.” -Victoria
“I like dancing because I get to have fun!” -Olivia
“I love doing dance circles with my friends” -Kathleen
“Dancing makes me feel calm.” -Simeon
“Dancing takes me to a different world.” -Amelia
“When I dance, I feel like there’s nothing else around me.” -Payton
Megalodon Class (grade 7-9)
“When I’m dancing, I can just be myself. I don’t have to put on a face for anyone.” -Liv
“When you get into the groove you lose the negativity in your life.”- A.J
Please join us in welcoming Ms. Hilary to the VVA team! We are excited to announce the start of an exciting year with Hilary on board! Ms. Hilary joined us early September as VVA's first ever Program Coordinator - directing after school programming, managing extra programming within the school, supporting students and teachers wherever she can. We are all sooooo thrilled to have her! And, we are extremely grateful to have found such a unique and wonderful soul to join our VVA team. We are ALSO excited she shared with you a personal passion of hers. A true delight to read! Hilary's kindness, understanding, and experiences make her an excellent support for our school. Enjoy!
Remember art class as a child in school?
Approximately once a week, it was a time to dedicated to exploring artistic ability. Remember sliding your tiny little fingers across the white sheet of paper covered in way too much paint? Mixing colors, using markers, stickers and adding just a splash, or maybe more, of glitter. Remember how proud you were to bring it home and post it on the family fridge or your own bedroom wall? Maybe you gave it as a gift because you loved it so very much and knew the receiver would love it just as much as you did (even if it wasn't quite true!).
As a child I too experienced this joy of art. Having an artist father, I felt more drawn to it than most of my peers. As an adult, I developed a love for abstract painting. I had experienced a surgical procedure which left me nearly incapacitated. Being in a place where i had no control and was confined to my home, placed a strain on my mental well being. I began to explore art as I once did as a child and adolescent and in doing so, discovered a new passion that eased my angst at being housebound and isolated. I could escape for hours into my medium of choice and lose myself in the process. The zen-like state that I achieved, I believe, greatly improved my healing journey.
I was able to lose myself in the fluidity of Abstract painting. It allowed me to escape into a meditative flow, letting my worries disappear. It aided my concentration, lessened my anxiety, and assisted me in letting go of the tension I was holding due to my circumstances. This form of art allows one to just simply let go and observe the way in which the paint chooses to flow...allowing the artist to simply enjoy the essence of being one with your canvas and your paint. Even the process of mixing your paints can create a zen experience, giving your mind a break from its regular reel.
Art has so many benefits for us all:
• Letting go
• Moving forward
Art is a creative way to fully immerse yourself into what you are feeling. It allows you to create a zen space to clear and quiet the mind. It doesn’t come at the snap of your fingers and there are so many different styles of art.
I used art as a form of therapy and it has been a great success. Being introduced to art from a young age I was able to tap into it as an adult to cope. It allowed me to move forward in the healing process.
I believe that art can have a similar, yet greater impact on the minds and hearts of children. Children who have trauma or have complex needs often find ways to express complex emotions through art that they may not be able to articulate verbally. It provides a release of pent up energy in some children as they become lost in the creative process, in whichever medium they are involved. The joy in a child's face when they can learn how to create a piece of art to which they can relate and/or share with a loved one, is priceless.
Children are proud of their creativity, and often, undiscovered talents are brought to light when children are permitted to play artistically, with no encumbrances or preconceived notions.
I believe that art not only speaks to children, but that it gives them a voice that may not otherwise be heard. As adults, we only need pay attention to what they might be saying, while remembering that sometimes, the only expression being shown is joy!
Each of our teachers are truly unique and special. It is such a joy to know when we've found someone new to add even more awesomeness to the team. Mr. Ryan Cox is just that. He joined us for the summer to help run Camp Via Vita and will be joining our teachers this fall for Via Vita Academy's Year 2. He is talented, enthusiastic and passionate. What more could we ask for? Please give Mr. Ryan a warm welcome and enjoy his first, of many, posts to our blog.
I’ll often find myself at parties, self- stationed near the snack table, meeting new faces for fun, and inevitably talking about teaching. Recently, though, my side of such talks on teaching has enjoyed a new and exciting, long-awaited opening line.
Let me explain how the convo used to go, first.
“So Ryan, what do you do?”
For me, the seemingly straightforward answer has long been, “I’m a teacher.” However, it’s that classic follow-up question that so often intrigues me:
“What do you teach ?”
Well, the go-to, safety-first response has always been simple enough: “English, Social Studies, and Music,” and yes, it’s kind of a kickstarter for further conversation, but if I’m being honest, this answer sounds like Water Soup must taste: flavourless and predictable.
(Spoiler Alert: the following is the opening line that’s since been refined.) For the longest time, if the person I was meeting seemed genuinely curious, I would answer them with something a little less obvious...
“I teach the truth, as often as I can afford to.”
Sounds cool, right? This answer would almost always raise eyebrows, and I would always get a kick out of my own cleverness.
Still, sometimes I would be asked to explain what I meant. On those occasions The conversation would start sounding a lot clunkier, more serious, and far less cool and clever. Here’s an example:
New Face raises an eyebrow in curiosity. “Do tell!”
“Well, what I mean is that the subjects I teach are traditionally flexible...for me. As an English teacher, the typical direction I’m given is: Short Stories > Novels > Essay > Poetry > Play > Projects in between. So basically I’m given carte-blanche. Same goes for Social Studies; the materials are more concrete to be sure, but really, past Latitude, Longitude, the Compass Rose and Western Europe on a map, the cornucopia of human endeavour is mine through which to pick. And Music? After “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” the rest of the sky’s the limit! So really, with loose guidelines like those, how could I not afford to be truthful in my teaching ?”
New Face nods, grabs a piece of celery from the vegetable tray, douses it in ranch dressing, and chomps on it contemplatively while I get farther and farther from my once-cool line. ..
“I mean sure, I like getting to teach interesting things, but then I look around the classroom and see twenty to forty different learners. That’s when I shrug and just explore materials that excite me , in the hope that my excitement proves contagious to all of them. And yeah, it sometimes does. But what if the student enjoyed something similar to those carte-blanche guidelines so typically given to me ? That way students might feel like they have some genuine control over their own learning, and get to explore materials more likely to excite them. Doesn’t that sound like something much closer to the true nature of education?”
New Face smiles and says “Of course it does!” Then, having finished their celery stick, they move on to the plate of dessert squares, find a nanaimo bar, and (while I delve into act three of my monologue) begin nibbling away...
“I mean, we’ve both gone through school, so we know that a school where students are given a lot of control over what they learn is pretty much fantasy; in most schools, everyone--the students, the teachers, and the parents--still expect that the student be evaluated objectively, and mostly through the materials that the teacher tells them to explore. As a result, I still end up functioning in the classroom as that stereotypical sage on the stage--standing tallest, oldest, and so presumably wisest at the front of the class, wielding the whiteboard marker like a wand and sharing tidbits of my ‘invaluable’ knowledge through methods of my choosing. And while I may well convince them tha--”
New Face interjects with a question meant to help me get to my point.
“Sorry, but what is the truth that you wish you could afford to teach more often ?!”
“Oh! That there is no singular path in education, for either the student or the teacher. That both deserve a lot of freedom to learn effectively; students deserve the freedom to explore more material that engages them personally, and teachers deserve the freedom to instruct more around those materials. Alas, with class sizes and curricula the way they’re currently set, I feel like I can only afford for my classroom to work like this a couple of weeks of the year.”
In solidarity, New Face shakes my hand and says,“May you find a place where you can teach like that all the time!” Then I straighten my back a bit, and have a go at that dessert plate.
So recently, I found a new school that teaches this way all the time, which is how I came up with my new opening line.
Last night, at a party, near the snack table, I once again met a new face, who soon asked what it is that I do. After I told them that I’m a teacher, they asked what it is that I teach. This time I had a new answer:
“I teach at Via Vita, which means ’Way of Life.’ That’s what we teach--how for every learner, education is exactly that: A Way of Life.”
Then, beaming with confidence over New Face’s curiosity, I grabbed a celery stick off the snack table and started talking.
Welcome to Our Blog
Each post is written by a supportive member of Via Vita Academy, be it a teacher, parent, student, community member, who is invested in the topic of education. Take a read and comment below!