Each class at Groove with Me begins with a group discussion. They encourage students to be open with their feelings and know that their statements or questions are valid and important. My group of girls on Saturday (ages 5–6) likes to tell me about birthday parties, their moms' ages and what they did at the park. But my Thursday evening girls (ages 6–8) can handle slightly more intense conversations. Here are my favorites from the past few weeks:
One week we talked about why we should eat healthy foods, and why it's especially important as dancers. "If you eat healthy then you will have energy to dance," said my first student. Bingo! The next student said: "If you eat junk food, your stomach will get big and you'll be too lopsided and you'll lose your balance, and even fall off the stage." (I explained that ballerinas come in many shapes and sizes, but the most important thing is to eat enough and to eat healthy things so your muscles can be strong—her answer was just too cute not to include.) We mentioned which before-class-snacks are healthy, and I made sure to stress drinking milk and orange juice for strong bones.
For tips to bring nutrition programs to your classroom: Click here.
Last week, one of my 7-year-old students said, "My week was terrible. There is a girl at school who keeps bossing me around. She won't stop telling me what to do." A few hands shot in the air.
"Did you ask her to stop?" asked the first student.
"Maybe ask her why she's bossing you around," said the next girl.
"Yeah, I don't even think she knows she's being bossy," was her next reply.
"And if she doesn't stop, you should tell a teacher," said the third. I was so proud of their advice!
And finally, at the end of January, Groove with Me recognized "No Name-Calling Week." My assistant teacher from the Teen Leadership Committee led an activity during our circle time that put together a few of these anti-bullying exercises to make it time/place appropriate. (Teen Leadership Committee is a program for older students to assist in younger classes and develop leadership skills. They meet once per week as a group with the program coordinator to discuss their achievements or challenges. After each assisted class, teens fill out a site report—like a progress journal.)
Our abridged activity:
--Girls discussed that everyone has a unique name. We asked each girl in our circle to say their name, and if they knew, who named them, where it came from, and what their name means.
--Then, we discussed what it feels like to be called something negative. Responses I jotted down: "It feels like everybody is the same and you are different." "It feels hurtful." "You feel angry and targeted."
--Next, we shared how we feel when someone says something positive to us, and how it feels to say something positive to someone else.
--One at a time, students stood in the middle of the circle. Everyone sitting repeated her name and called out positive traits. It was an affirmation: You are smart, kind, beautiful and important.
I was surprised that many girls were still nervous to stand in front of their peers, even though they knew positive characteristics were coming. But everyone sitting in the circle smiled as they spoke—proving that it feels just as good to say nice words as to receive them.
Photo of the healthy snack kids all rave about: Ants on a log