on dancing, dolphins, & data

A few weeks ago the 2nd graders had a dance performance. I went and sat on the front row (both for the birds eye view and so that I could help keep a lid on the extremely excited children who were waiting for their turn to go on stage). The dance teacher, as she introduced one of the pieces, mentioned that this piece was about creating, not performing. And then the children came running out on stage, striking the poses they had dreamed up, all as part of this dance that they had choreographed. And my eyes filled up with tears. Not because the dance in and of itself was deep and moving. (It was dolphin themed. At one point a little boy accidentally struck a pose that resulted in his face being precariously close to another little boys rear end, a fact they both found totally hilarious. Elementary school, ya’ll.) But the kids were quite obviously invested, excited, having fun. They had made something and they were proud of themselves.

Potty humor and porpoise inspired movement aside, I teared up because I thought about the power and importance of creating, about the pressure and importance of performing. I thought about the 3rd-5th graders who, at that very moment were sitting in classrooms taking a test that’s supposed to tell us how they might do on the PARCC. I thought about high stakes testing and fights over Common Core and teachers getting bad evaluations and states pulling out of contracts and kids being drilled and killed all day long. As an adult, I still have a lot of performance anxiety. And sometimes it impedes me from being creative. What if I try a new discussion format in my classroom and it goes wrong? What if I sew a quilt and the seams come out crooked and I wasted all that fabric? What if I write and people think it sucks? I can’t help but think that kids must feel the same way.

Data and testing and evaluations and straight seams are really important. But for a couple of minutes on a Tuesday morning, I was reminded that creating and process are just as important. And maybe a lot more beautiful. Definitely a lot more freeing.

Dance on, 2nd graders. Dance on.

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