I believe our teaching philosophies should be the foundation upon which we as teachers build each lesson. My philosophy is rooted in the philosophies of Margaret H’Doubler, John Dewey, Bell Hooks and Jerome Bruner. Their ideas of a healthy learning environment, artistry, the educational experience, and the structure of teaching have inspired my style of teaching.
Engaging students in artistic creative activities in order to develop their self expression is a goal in each of my classes. Margaret H'Doubler talks about the unity of psychological elements and motor elements in relation to portraying content. She states, “It is only by means of its outwardly constructed form that a dance is able to accomplish its dual purpose of expression and communication” (1957, p.135). Two dancers given the same movement can control its effect by the slightest bit of extension or release of breath. Similar to giving two artists the same picture to paint, the strokes will always be different. Something to take time to consider is the thought that “although skillful and well co-ordinated movements are essential to dance, they will not assure its existence as an art form” (H'Doubler, 1957, p.135). I plan to instill my students with the ability to make and appreciate art in order to keep dance alive for years to come.
A healthy learning environment is extremely important for teachers to create within their classrooms in order to facilitate their students’ success. A safe space in which students feel comfortable, take risks, and make mistakes is key to allow them to grow. Each student should be an active participant in class.
“This class is really fun so far and I’m excited to start dancing.
During this class, I forget that I’m in school and actually have fun.”
-Jourdan Foster (9th grader)
“The educator is responsible for a knowledge of individuals and for a knowledge of subject-matter
that will enable activities to be selected which lend themselves to social organization, an
organization in which all individuals have an opportunity to contribute something…” (Dewey, 1997, p.56).
Each student should have their voice heard and find value in what they have to contribute during class.
While the educator is responsible for providing a healthy learning environment, part of that environment is a reflection of the teacher. Hooks (1994) presents the concept of teachers needing to be involved in a process of self actualization to promote their own well being. Confidence and being humble are two important qualities that allow educators to be approachable and therefore successful. When students feel confident and comfortable enough to ask questions, they will learn more. I also find it important to have a “...sympathetic understanding of individuals as individuals which gives an idea of what is actually going on in the minds of those who are learning” (Dewey, 1997, p.39). By understanding our students’ background we can effectively adapt our teaching techniques to the individual student.
Ideally, I would teach the students throughout the curriculum becoming acquainted with their technical level in order to better scaffold the lessons in the musical theatre curriculum. Bruner (McLeod, 2008) presents what is called a spiral curriculum which involves a structure of presenting information so that complex ideas, for example a pirouette, can be taught at a simplified level first, like a balance. This spiral curriculum allows me as a teacher to understand each student’s baseline and present information that is challenging, yet attainable.
By creating a healthy learning environment, taking into consideration each student’s individuality, and effectively structuring each lesson, my teaching will allow students to gain knowledge of dance and pursue a career in performance if they so choose.