"It’s showcase time!" I exclaim at morning meeting, about 4 weeks out from the main event itself.
"Woooo!!!" Cheers groups of students, young and old, and immediate chatter starts to take hold of the group.
All 64 of them all Via Vita students, sitting on the floor, with young ones settled into the laps of older ones, get louder with the vibes of showcase running throughout the room. Normally, morning meeting is a time to discuss things to change, the going's on of day-to-day events. Today, we've all come together to start our day and the first topic is showcase, which quickly takes hold of the entire agenda. The daily meetings are led by 2 students, who are now clapping rhythms trying to get the group back in order and quiet down. Vibes of excitement, anticipation, worry, and then getting-to-business waves over the crowd as they go through the emotions of preparing for such a big event as Showcase. New students unsure of what it all means. Old students grinning ear to ear, knowing exactly what it means.
A few rounds of repeating the pattern claps from the morning's leading students and finally the mass of the group settles down into low whispers and then finally quiet, while a few hands shoot up in the air.
“When is it? We have to write the script?”
“Can I sign up to act, please? Oh! And dance? How many things can I sign up for?”
“I want to babysit this time!”
“Remember last year’s? Can we do that again? That was so much fun!”
My absolute favourite time of year. An excellent example of controlled chaos, student-led learning, and infused creativity. Showcase season. The time of year when we bring all of the themes and most influential things we’ve been learning about all term and pull it together into an on-stage production. Songs, dances, skits, poems, stories, science shows – you name it, we include it. Written with the students’ guiding ideas, produced with the support of their teachers edging them along. It’s always completely unique and entirely theirs. Can we include a boat? Why not, if it makes sense! Can we include that story we loved reading over and over in class? Sure, let’s figure out a way. Can we include aliens? Spaceships? Zombies? I’m sure we can find a way to make sense of that, right?
Is it stressful? Heck, yes. Without a doubt. We willingly walk into the chaos and make more chaos. It’s messy, it’s challenging, it’s ever-changing. Our newest teachers are looking at us like we’ve lost it. Our oldest teachers just keep saying – trust the process, you’ll see.
See what, they ask? The payoff. The reason for it all. The moment when you see a child, who perhaps is struggling to keep their head up in math lately, or who has been chatting with us a lot lately about the woes of their changing social dynamics, or perhaps a student who has been having a difficult time smiling through the cold winter months, or a child frustrated with the complexity of reading the English language – you see them, beaming. Perhaps on stage, perhaps leading the younger ones, perhaps handling the mic system, perhaps keeping order back stage. It doesn’t matter the role, but it does matter that they are beaming. This is the reason for it all. For all the rehearsing and script writing, for all the prop making and mess cleaning. It’s also the reason for all the prep work, tests, quizzes, due dates, projects, parent meetings, staff meetings, schedules and classes. And it’s even the reason for the record keeping, payment collecting; accounting, upkeep and marketing of the business. This is the why.
That child is beaming.
Look at them. Look at what they’ve accomplished and look at how they feel about it. Can you compare anything else to it? This moment will move mountains. It’ll build confidence, and positive memories with school. It’ll help them believe in themselves, work with others, and never back down from a challenge. It builds grit, integrity, and independence. It's an opportunity to work through stress, cope with fear, and manage challenges. It’s real, hands-on, experiential learning. It’s hard work, no doubt, but it’s the reason Via Vita exists.
February 2020 marks 4 years since Via Vita Academy Ltd. became a thing and marks the 10th Showcase production with our students. We embarked on an adventure we had only dreamed of, with hopes in our heads and hearts for what Via Vita could be. Make a positive difference in the lives of our students. As a teacher, Via Vita is most certainly a dream come true.
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
The image below was created by the kids, so there are a few spelling mistakes. But, as said by one of our amazing teachers, spelling, like life, isn't always perfect. But it can still be honest, heartfelt, and beautiful. So, with that, we hope you enjoy this beautiful piece written in combination by our students and our fantastic Ms. Tori. A wonderful way to start Spring! Thank you VVA!
“Can you name 10 things that make Via Vita unique, that you love and appreciate about your school?”
It’s a question I’m sure most of the kids have thought of from time to time but one that I was curious to see be put into words. As I stare at the wonderful 60 faces in front of me, eager to participate, I can not help but have a sense of immense pride. Pride in my kids, in my work team, and in the environment in which I have been honoured to become a part of.
As I stand at the front of the room in Buddies with my fellow teachers in tow, I am amazed at the level of critical thinking these kids bring to class every day. Without hesitation they create groups that involve all ages and designate a writer and “techy” who copies down the information and then prepares it for our Menti project. Menti (as the lovely Ms. Rhiannon taught me) is a brainstorming website that allows multiple people to add words to a central idea or question. The best part is the ideas that come forward more often are the ones that grow in size. It is reflective of that age old classroom question “so what’s our big picture, what is our major focus”, without standing at the front of the room in a lecture-style lesson. As we rotate around the room, it is clear that the kids mirror many of their fellow teachers’ style of classroom management. They prompt their friends for answers to our question, and are patient for the ideas to come out rather than move on to the next student. Some of our older students engage with focus activities or adapted questions to help our Pre-Kindergarten kids feel acknowledged and involved.
All in all the lesson goes according to plan, and as we come back together to share our answers with the Menti Cloud projected on to the wall, I cannot help but feel that twinge of excitement to see what the kids really believe sets our school apart.
Their excitement grows with each word that is typed and submitted, and while they smile, laugh, and point I cannot help but feel that sense of pride again. It wells up in my throat as I observe the things that I know in my heart are important to their learning, but that you sometimes wonder if they are picking up on. Music, daily physical activity and kitchen are the first to be thrown up on the board, and it is amazing to see how they value the impact that daily life skills have on their growth. Values like kindness, buddies, and helping others are quickly added; compassion training that is close to all of our collective hearts. After school is added by another student and I feel Ms. Hilary grab my arm, and with a giant smile she goes, “Look, I’m up there!”
“Of course you are Hilary”, I think... we couldn’t do this without you.
As the word 'kind' builds it’s way up to the centre (being the most common word they think of), I stare at these beautiful future adults. If the one thing we could bring to them every day is how to be kind to each other, I know I would never have another moment where I question myself, “did I make an impact today?”
Buddies lesson for the day: never underestimate the value of kindness in a child’s education. It will truly inspire everyone around you. It is something I have seen every day since I joined Via Vita Academy, and I cannot express how thankful I am to work in an environment that values this quality.
And knowing that our kids believe it sets us apart too?
Well, there’s something kind of magical about that, isn’t there?
From the very appreciative,
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