Posts Tagged ‘Maine arts education’


MALI Teacher Leader Story: Kris Bisson

March 20, 2018

Music educator: Kris Bisson

This is one of several blog posts in 2018 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 7 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series of blog posts includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 93 Teacher Leaders and 8 Teaching Artist Leaders.  CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE  for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories.  Thank you Kris for sharing your story!

Kristine (Kris) Bisson, Music Teacher and Chorus Director for Marshwood Middle School, grades 6, 7, and 8, in Eliot, Maine. She has been teaching a total of 16 years, all of them at Marshwood Middle School. Kris teaches 350 students throughout the school year in six classes: guitar/ukulele, piano, Composing Music, and three grade level Chorus classes (Grade Eight Chorus, Grade Seven Chorus, Grade Six Chorus)In addition, Kris offers several music classes as extra-curricular groups after school. These are always offered as multi-age ensembles open to all students and we have had students participate from grades four through twelve join us for Select Chorus Ensemble, Rock Band, Guitar/Ukulele Ensemble, Piano Class, and Songwriters Workshop.

A unique fact is that I taught here ten years, then had my maternity leave and decided to stay at home to raise my children. After nine years I returned to my position at Marshwood Middle and have been here since. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to return to the teaching position I have always loved. She also is very fortunate to teach my own two children in my music classes.

What do you like best about being a music educator?

I absolutely love my profession. I love music and am reminded every day of why I love it. I have the amazing opportunity to share what I love with young people and help them embrace what they love about music, too. We do a lot of reflection in class: “Why did the composer choose this note? this rhythm? how would you sing this if you were really feeling these lyrics? how would you sing this differently?”

I love to personalize music making and music creating. Everyone can respond and it can be different to each and every person, and that is acceptable. This is personalization.

Every day we laugh, learn, make music, and work together to discover new things about ourselves. My favorite phrase in the classroom is, “Who else is having this much fun?”

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

  1. Personal expression is unique to the performing arts. Every day and every item of study should carry an aspect of how there is a human response. I try to establish an environment of trust and respect between teacher and students and foster this every day. We work together as a team and support each other. I remind my choruses that this is what an ensemble does: we work together.
  2. Passion is an important element in the classroom. Being able to explore music as an art means being able to share first-hand experiences and giving students that opportunity as well. When you create music you have a story to tell. Tell it!
  3. Taking time to process what we are learning has been a key part of reflection in learning. Taking time to listen and hear my students respond to what they are learning is important learning. Why are we learning this? How does this moment in our learning affect other areas of our lives? I strive to help students continue to think about music beyond our classroom walls.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

Teaching performance-based classes (Choruses, creating compositions in Guitar, Piano, and Composing Music classes) can sometimes create some confusion around the subjective and objective qualities present. Authentic assessment has created a more objective and transparent method of demonstrating learning. Students can compare the rubrics we use with those similar in every class at our school. It validates the arts. It also provides measurement that can be effectively reached by various means. There are multiple pathways to learning, thus creating a broader spectrum of learning. This has been extremely rewarding to me as an educator and likewise, to my students.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

MALI has provided a generous amount of support and enrichment to my teaching career. Being able to collaborate and learn from highly motivated and skilled teaching artists and teacher leaders has awakened a new area of growth for me. It has reminded me of the risk I ask my students to make daily to try something new and take a leap of faith into the unknown. MALI has brought that desire to succeed closer to me and I carry this with me in my classroom.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Kate Smith and Kris at the summer institute, summer 2017

With the help of my extremely supportive husband and two amazingly awesome children I earned my Masters in Music Education at the University of Southern Maine last year. It was an incredibly busy four years, but everything I studied and researched and learned I have used directly in my teaching classroom. The best lesson from this has to be that while I was working on my Masters, my husband was working on his MBA and our children witnessed first-hand how dedicated we both were to our goals in our careers, in our studies, and with our family. From our example both of our children have expressed how valuable education is and I know they will always remember this.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher?


  • I always make time for a student who wants to keep improving or delving deeper during lunch breaks or after school.
  • Researching new material or reading up about improving learning or my own teaching takes time.
  • Getting the word out to the newspapers or parents about the goings on of our trips, activities, and concerts takes time.
  • Sending out “I got caught being awesome!” emails to students and their families takes time.
  • Needing the sleep for the energy my job demands sometimes gets in the way, but is absolutely necessary time! 🙂

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

When I returned to classroom teaching after a nine year hiatus I hadn’t touched my resume, my certification had expired, and I hadn’t interviewed in nineteen years. I put my full effort into the entire process and committed myself fully. This took a great amount of work and I knew it was the absolute thing to do.

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers?

Love what you do. Love giving that thirst for knowledge to others. Love being with the age group you work with. There is no greater satisfaction than loving what you do and sharing and seeing that grow in others.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

I would love to start a music school that extends our learning for Marshwood students – and our surrounding community – giving scholarships to children and adults who want to learn beyond their classroom music experience and grow more music in their lives. Choruses, rock bands, jazz bands, and private lessons on instruments they love or haven’t even explored yet would be definite possibilities to so many people. Having intergenerational ensembles where the people you sit beside are sharing the same love of learning is an amazing experience for any human being. I attended small schools that did not have any band experiences and now I conduct four choruses and a Rock Band. The experience one learns in an ensemble is unique. Every person should experience being a member of a music ensemble.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

Kaitlin Young and Kris at the MALI summer institute, August 2017

I really hope I do not have any regrets. One of my favorite rewards of teaching is the surprise meeting with former students and their family members. I sincerely love finding out who they have become, where they are, and what they are doing. It means so much to know that they look back fondly on their learning in my classroom and have taken some of our learning with them in their pursuits. I can honestly say that I have made music, laughed, and learned every day and hope my students do, too. For this, I have no regrets.


New England Institute Courses

March 18, 2018

Encountering the Arts, Music assessment, G/T 

  • Encountering the Arts: Choice, Voice and Creativity, (hybrid) taught by Lindsay Pinchbeck – April 7 to June 9, 4.5 CEUs
  • Assessment in the Music Classroom, (online) taught by music educator, Jake Sturtevant – April 2 to June 11, 4.5 CEUs
  • Educating Gifted & Talented Learners, (online) taught by Grace Jacobs – April 2 to June 18, 4.5 CEUs

Encountering the Arts: Choice, Voice and Creativity – April 7 to June 9

You can join Lindsay Pinchbeck, MALI Design Team member, in her very own school, Sweetland School in Hope, and learn some wonderful strategies to incorporate into your classroom right away. Sweetland School is s a project based elementary program inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach. Drama, Movement, Music, Poetry, Storytelling, and Visual Arts will be integrated across content areas: Math, Science, Social Studies, Reading and Writing.

Work with colleagues, build relationships, and ask questions of the professor, in person, for two Saturdays and have the convenience of doing the rest of the coursework online. Encountering the Arts: Choice, Voice and Creativity is one such hybrid course.

Assessment in the Music Classroom – April 2 to June 11

This online course taught by music educator and MALI Design Team member Jake Sturtevant provides looking closely at assessment practices through a collaborative and fine-tuned lens. It can provide unique opportunities for growth. Connecting new assessment practices to instruction can bring exciting changes to how we approach our students and their learning.

Participants will discuss how best to apply recent music assessment work to their own unique situations in their own school music programs. This will lead them to create a personalized plan for implementing new strategies. Assessment in the Music Classroom will provide a great opportunity to look closely at assessment practices.

Educating Gifted & Talented Learners

This introductory course provides foundational information relating to the field of gifted and talented education (i.e. history, laws, etc.), details characteristics of gifted students from various populations, describes how such students are identified and assessed, and presents up-to-date, research-based pedagogy relating to curriculum design and instruction.

It may be applied toward the 690 (Gifted & Talented) endorsement for the State of Maine teachers. Join Grace Jacobs for this Educating Gifted & Talented Learners online course.

If you have questions contact Catherine Ring, Executive Director, New England Institute for Teacher Education.


MALI Winter Retreat

March 14, 2018

Amazing opportunity to learn and exchange

Winter Retreat participants. photo credit: Chris Pinchbeck

Thirty Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders met last Saturday for the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) winter retreat. It was a great opportunity to gather with friends and colleagues from across Maine.


    • To provide an opportunity for the MALI community to come together to listen to and learn from each other
    • To review the work that has taken place during the phase underway
    • To address ideas and the latest topics in education/research and respond to timely issues relevant to Maine teachers
    • To provide information and/or context for participants 
    • To consider topics for the next phase of MALI

We accomplished the above and a whole lot more. There is nothing that compares to coming together with visual and performing arts teachers who have so much in common. So many topics to discuss and listen to what each person has to offer. “Getting off our islands” and coming together with “our community” on a winter day in March is refreshing!

The agenda was filled with art making from the Growth Mindset opening session to the finishing session that concluded with a meditative heart exercise.


  • Growth Mindset review and revisit with Lindsay Pinchbeck
  • MALI This We Believe statements review
  • MALI collaboration with art teacher Hope Lord and music teacher Dorie Tripp
  • Ukulele’s with music teacher Kate Smith
  • Update on Proficiency Based from Department of Education Diana Doiron
  • Looking ahead and considering ideas for Phase 8

If you are considering applying to be a Teacher Leader or a Teaching Artist Leader for MALI in Phase 8, please send an email to me – stating your interest. Applications will be available in May 2018.


MALI Teacher Leader Story: Cindi Kugell

March 6, 2018

Visual Art Educator

This is the first of several blog posts in 2018 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 7 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 93 Teacher Leaders and 8 Teaching Artist Leaders.  CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE  for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories.  Thank you Cindi for sharing your story!

Cindi Kugell is currently teaching High School Visual arts. She was fortunate to find an open teaching position just after graduating from the University of Maine Orono and has been happily teaching art for the past 28 years. Cindi’s first teaching assignment was in SAD#58 teaching at 2 K8 schools. In 1998 my husband, 2 young children and I moved to Oxford and started teaching in SAD#17 in the Oxford Hills K6. In 2000 we added a third child to our tribe and our family was complete. Fast forward to 2010 and a position opened at our high school. I made another move to Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School to teach darkroom photography and introductory Art 1 courses. Over the past 8 years I’ve added Adaptive Arts, Drama, Yearbook, Advanced Photography, and Studio Art History to my teaching load and have taken on the roll of K12 Visual Art department chair. I am also the Yearbook advisor and Lead teacher for our Project Graduation group. I like to stay busy!

What do you like best about being an art educator?

What are the positives of having the best job EVAH!? At the K-8 level one of the “bests” was getting to see EVERY student in the school and building lasting relations with them over time – year after year after year! Most teachers don’t get the opportunity to really know their students (and their families) as they grow up. My first year teaching at the high school level I had the unique opportunity to have Seniors in my classes that I had first 13 years previous as Kindergarten students, nothing is cooler than that! I love my job, there isn’t anything that I’d rather be doing. Who wouldn’t love the celebrity status that comes with knowing so many students, building positive relationships with them and their families, building skills in talented children and getting to play with art materials all day while teaching a subject that you love?!

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

I think that one of the biggest ways that arts educators can offer their students success in the arts is in the way or the “how” that they present problems to their students. If students feel confident and non-threatened in by the process of creating and realize that there are multiple solutions to problems they feel free to flourish. Releasing students from the fear of being wrong is a great part of a successful program. Another way that

Teachers can foster success in their programs is by letting their students know that skill in the arts can be increased just as math, English or any other core subject can be build upon. By letting them know that it’s your job (and your pleasure!) to help them get better and grow as an art student, you can relieve some of the pressure they may feel while in your classroom. Meeting student where they are and moving them forward is the job of all educators, some of us just get to have more fun with the supplies that they use to get students to their best! A well rounded education is important to student success. So are the skills of creative problem solving and critical thinking. The arts are a fantastic, hands on way of fostering those skills in students. I’m fortunate in my district to be very well supported in what I do and how I teach. Teachers and administration see the value of a well rounded education and the roll that the arts play in student success.

How have you found assessment to be helpful to you in your classroom?

My current jam in the world of assessment and reporting is a single point universal project rubric. This style of rubric has only the descriptors for the proficient level of achievement listed down the center. To the left is a box that I can write descriptive feedback to my students on what needs improvement or isn’t going well and to the right there is an area that I can write things that were amazing or outstanding in their project. Kids love the comments and the opportunity to go back and make adjustments to their work. It takes a long time to assess this way, but as it’s a universal rubric for all projects there is a clarity for students as they navigate through work in the art room.

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative? I think the biggest benefit for me is the networking with other teachers. It’s easy to become comfortable on your own little teaching Island and get stuck in a pattern or “the same old”. Learning new things, meeting others that share your discipline and making those colleague connections helps to keep things fresh and inspiring in teaching for me and for my students.

What are you most proud of in your career? The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that I had my own 3 children in my classroom K12. When they were in Elementary I taught at their schools and when I made the transition to the High School level I had them there as well. It’s a unique opportunity to see your own children as learners and know that they are great people! They also have given me great feedback on my lessons, organization and classroom routines that have been very reaffirming. Nobody is more critical than your own children on the crazy things you do to inspire students! I’m proud of my 28 years in art education and proud of the great students (and children!) that I’ve raised during my career.

What gets in the way of being a better teacher or doing a better job as a teacher? I think the age old comment of “time” is the biggest obstacle in becoming a better teacher. It takes a huge amount of the stuff to do your job well. Staying current with educational practices in this ever changing landscape can be exhausting. Pair that with extra curricular activities, leadership roles, teaching, parenting and family life and you’ve got a full 24 hours in each day – oh, and try to rest up in there as well!

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances? Starting in this district as a part time elementary art teacher, moving to full time elementary then stepping up to the High School level and finally ending up as the leader of our K12 art department has taken a fair amount of hard work and determination. I wouldn’t change a thing and can’t thank my colleagues enough for their support and hard work this year. It’s amazing to work with such a great team of educators and I’m thankful for that everyday!

Look into your crystal ball: what advice would you give to teachers? Get your masters while you are young and never stop taking courses or PD to improve your teaching skills. As educators we need to keep learning just as we expect our students to learn from us. Stay current, advocate for yourself and your program and LOVE what you do.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be? Education is so grossly underfunded that I can think of a plethora of activities, programs and equipment that would be amazing to add to our district. I think the most pressing issue that I’d apply the funds to would be to increase the base pay of our new young teachers to entice them into the profession. I know teaching isn’t all about the money and has it’s own rewards, but we need new qualified educators in our field and we need to validate the importance of the profession and celebrate it accordingly.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets? I have truly enjoyed my career. My only regret is in not continuing my education by getting my masters. I’m working on it now, but do wish that I’d taken that step earlier. I can remember starting out as a new teacher and thinking to myself “I’ll do this for 5 years or so then change to something else”. Well, 28 years later I’m still here and loving every minute of it! Every day is a great day to learn something new and my students teach me something new every day.


Ticket to Ride

March 3, 2018

Research supporting Field Trips

The Brookings Brown Center Chalkboard posted information on research that is underway about the positive impact of arts-centered field trips. Part of the piece is below and you can access the entire article at THIS LINK.

No reason like the present for planning trips with your students to arts venues in Maine. We are fortunate to have so many learning opportunities that take place across the state that are focused learning in and through the arts. In addition, the Maine Arts Commission (MAC) has funding to help defray the cost of transportation to these venues.

Learn more about the Ticket to Ride program at THIS LINK and apply for the funding to hop on the bus with your students! It’s a fairly simple process – please let me know if you have any questions by emailing me at

In a new experiment, we are conducting on the effects of arts-focused field trips—and we have a positive result that we totally did not expect. The study is funded by the National Endowment for the Artsand examines long-term effects of students receiving multiple field trips to the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta. The Woodruff Arts Center houses the High Art Museum, Alliance Theater, and Atlanta Symphony, all on one campus. We randomly assigned 4th and 5th grade school groups to get three field trips per year–one to each of Woodruff’s arts organizations–or to a control condition in which students received a single field trip. We administered surveys to collect a variety of outcomes from students at the beginning and end of the school year, and also collected administrative data from the participating school district. We are currently examining the results after a single year, but some students will get a second treatment of three field trips, and we will continue tracking students over time.



Who Are They? Oxford Hills Region Part 1

March 1, 2018

Folk Art Studio at Fiber and Vine

This blog post is part one of a series that aims to bring awareness to the Maine Arts Ed blog readers about the many visual and performing arts venues and educational opportunities in the Oxford Hills. The Oxford Hills Region of Maine is a perfect setting for the arts as it is centrally located where the rolling foothills of the White Mountains and beautiful lakes regions intersect. Located 45 miles north of Portland, 35 miles east of New Hampshire, and 20 miles west of Lewiston-Auburn, the region hosts multiple year-round opportunities for learners of all ages and a thriving arts community. The Oxford Hills School District (SAD17) is Maine’s largest school district in geographic area, with nine community schools, a regional middle school, a comprehensive high school and the Streaked Mountain School, an alternative school for high school students. The Oxford Hills serves the towns of Buckfield, Harrison, Hartford, Hebron, Mechanic Falls, Norway, Otisfield, Oxford, Paris, Poland, Sumner, Waterford and West Paris. A great big THANKS to Diana Arcadipone for writing this series of posts.

The Folk Art Studio is housed in the downstairs space of Fiber & Vine at 402 Main Street in Norway. The studio offers a place for artists, craftspeople and makers of all mediums to gather, learn, share information, techniques, traditional crafts and art. Workshops are scheduled on a regular basis, usually on weekends, and have included Nuno Felting, Paper Making by Hand, Paint Brush Making with scavenged materials, Bookbinding, Doll Making from Scraps, Embroidery, Beading, Basketry, Printmaking, Wood Carving and more.

The studio was founded on the basis of Folk Art & Craft being for the people, by the people, and of the people.  Without ceremony, the folk arts have evolved by necessity over time and in every reach of the globe.  Clothing, toys and everyday objects were created within the community from materials that were readily gathered, harvested and processed, and with tools and implements that were rudimentary and easily fashioned. Historically, there were no textbooks or learning manuals, but rather information and techniques were handed down orally from grandmothers and elders to the younger ones. Technologies became tried and true and more sophisticated through time and progress. Today we live in a high speed digital world where information is easily accessed on our devices within seconds. The Folk Art Studio is a way to revisit the joy of creating in a relaxed collaborative atmosphere of learning and making, and revisit our inherit resourcefulness.

With the help of a Maine Arts Commission grant, the first year of programming was made possible and the Folk Art Studio was launched. Kimberly Hamlin, Manager and co-owner of the retail store Fiber & Vine (a yarn and wine shop) offers classes in knitting, embroidery, crochet, felting and the fiber arts and was a likely partner. Fiber & Vine offered space to help launch the folk art and craft center’s first workshops by lending a large wooden community table located at the back of the store (a work of art in and of itself). The Folk Art Studio enabled a handful of participants the chance to sit down in an inspiring environment, and make something beautiful and useful. Two years later, The Folk Art Studio accommodates as many as ten participants in a workshop setting in the downstairs of the store.

The Folk Art Studio engages local art educators, artists and artisans to offer one-day workshops at an affordable cost. It makes the studio available to artists who want to create their own programming to serve their established group of students. And, all participants are encouraged to request specific workshops that can be accommodated in the space. Recently, Fiber and Vine and The Folk Art Studio hosted an open house “Upstairs/Downstairs” where artists and artisans were invited to bring a current project to work on, enjoy lunch, snacks and beverages, and a controlled wine tasting in the store. So far, the line up of accomplished teaching artists include Don Best, Sarah Shepley, Kimberly Hamlin, Kristin Roy, Rebecca May Verrill, Becky Cheston, Patt Pasteur, Kate Castelli and Diana Arcadipone.

Although the workshops have primarily served adult learners, Fiber and Vine hosts a “Kids Craft Club” and plans to offer kids studio classes through The Folk Art Studio, gearing up for this summer. Continuing Education Certificates are available to teachers. SPRING WORKSHOP PROGRAM or on Facebook: Folk Art Studio at Fiber & Vine.

Saturday Workshops Scheduled this Spring

  • March 10: Wild Crafted Basketry with Rebecca Verrill
  • April 14: Woodworking with Don Best
  • April 28: Letterpress Postcards with Kate Castelli
  • May 5: Bead Loom Bracelets with Becky Cheston
  • June 16: Coiled Fabric Basketry with Patt Pasteur

Interested in learning more about the Folk Art Studio? Email Diana Arcadipone at


Dance Ed Grant Story

February 28, 2018

Hebron Academy

In December I traveled to Hebron for a visit with Teaching Artist, dancer Karen Montanaro and Director of Drama, Sarah Coleman, Hebron Academy. Hebron Academy received funding from the Dance Education grant from the Maine Arts Commission. I really appreciated the opportunity to see the dance residency in action. I was reminded of what dance education provides that is unique to the discipline. The list of skills students have a chance to develop is very long. Thanks to Sarah and Karen for providing their reflections on the residency.


Hebron Academy was pleased to receive a grant from the Maine Arts Commission to support a residency with Karen Montanaro over two weeks in December. The goal of this residency was two-fold. First to provide an opportunity for students in the classes to experience the art form of dance/movement. Second, for the school to offer a dance/movement opportunity with the hope of continuing to develop interest in after-school opportunities, and eventually classes in dance.
Karen worked with three high school performing arts classes on movement, presence, and performance. Students were challenged to use their bodies in ways that were very different from their daily routine – to move, to improv and to explore. At first, this was an extremely challenging and uncomfortable experience for students, but as they became more familiar with Karen they were able to release some of their self-consciousness and participate with more freedom. In writing about their experience students shared reflections such as,
  • ” I truly believe that she opened a door to an unknown side of myself. Through the unusual games and dance movements, she helped me gain confidence moving and using my body as a tool.”
  • “Having Karen in our class was definitely a fun and relaxing experience…with her there [were] no expectations or even limits.”
  • “From that week I explored [a] part of myself [that] I usually don’t.”
As a former teaching artist for many years, the experience with Karen was both typical and special. It was typical in that with anything new, different and disruptive to the traditional approaches to class participation (sitting) many students are resistant. It was special because with Karen, who brings her open, honest, authentic self to every class, students can’t help but release and play. Most importantly she challenges them to practice vulnerability – something we talk about often in our arts classes, but is hard to highlight daily. Even with the large amount of resistance she faced with our 9th graders, she continued to support and gently nudge them to let down their guard at a pace that was more comfortable to them.
A fellow 9th-grade teacher shared the other day that music was on in another class setting and a number of the students starting doing the movement sequence Karen had taught them. That feels like a true moment of impact, and success.

I taught three very different classes and each class had its own positive aspects and signs of success. Two of the classes were electives. These two classes were positive experiences from start to finish. Each student came in ready to learn and try new things. Shyness and self-consciousness showed up in various ways (i.e., moving tentatively rather than boldly, speaking softly rather than speaking to be heard), but all of the students in these classes began to move with more authority and confidence. They willingly stepped beyond their comfort zones — where real learning takes place.
Success in these classes took the form of an enlarged movement vocabulary, more skill and precision in mime and dance techniques and an improved ability to access their own, truly original movement impulses. A lightness-of-mood “greased” these steep learning curves.  With each new skill, students progressed from tentative awkwardness to almost stage-worthy performance.
The more challenging class was the ninth grade arts class with thirty six students. About a third of the class was fully on-board from the beginning, but the remaining two thirds were almost paralyzed by self-consciousness. I told them that I was caught “between a rock and hard place” because the only way my class was going to work was if they agreed to be there. I couldn’t do anything without them. On the last day, all the students danced! They ran and leapt into position and we went through the choreography full tilt. By now, they knew the steps and I was thrilled to see even the most reluctant students moving with more energy and precision. It was clear to me that they had found themselves on the other side of a very threatening learning curve; a learning curve unique to the dance-experience that involves visibility, spontaneity, energy and expressive risk-taking. Watching this class move with willingness and assertiveness, I had a revelation that I shared with them. I told them that my highest hope for this class is that they will experience a type of movement that makes them feel so good inside their skin, they won’t need outside approval.  Paradoxically when you lose this sense of need, thats when you gain real friends  friends that will help you rather than hold you back
I learned invaluable lessons from all the students. They reinforced the importance of what I do and why I do it. My goal is to create a safe environment where they can take huge emotional risks; an environment that allows them to step out of the digital world and into the full light of day — to experience their energy, visibility, intelligence and originality working together in profoundly expressive ways and to love presenting themselves to the world this way.

The Maine Arts Commission will provide the dance grant once again this year thanks to a generous donation from a performance put together by a collaborative group of dance educators. Two other locations are enjoying this funding, I will provide information each of them after my visits to the schools.

%d bloggers like this: