Years after our official education, most of us rarely remember the majority of the content we learnt in class. We scarcely remember the exercises employed to learn information, and for the greater relevance to our lives today it probably doesn’t serve much of a purpose to recall every grade we achieved at school. However, what we do remember are the teachers who brought a subject to life, and more importantly, sparked something inside of us. We may not remember exactly what they taught, but we do remember how they made us feel, and often pockets of golden words they spoke over our lives.

I have never been too keen on the idea of just doing something for the sake of doing it. Maybe it’s something in my character that needs to bring meaning to my experiences. Although I almost fell into teaching, once I had committed to it, I needed it to serve a deeper purpose. This is where I learnt to let my faith drive my teaching.

It all started in the third year of my Undergraduate Degree in Dance Studies. I was offered a Summer Scholarship to complete a research project, and I decided to hold a series of dance workshops back in my hometown in New Zealand. The research aimed to explore the impact community dance could have on the lives of young people, and how it could contribute to their positive development. Thirteen young people were involved in the program, all from different backgrounds, and with different abilities- some had never experienced dance before. Some of the boys involved were known “trouble-makers”, were regularly truant from school and had come from fairly tough backgrounds. On the first day I made the assumption that I would inevitably encounter some real challenges with these boys. However, for the duration of the workshops these same boys were the first to arrive at class, the first to be warming up in front of the mirrors, and were arguably the strongest leaders in the group. They wanted to be there and it showed.The final performance evening had me in ruins. The joy was tangible and the night seemed to last forever, not because the content was drawn out, but purely because nobody wanted to leave. They felt they had belonged in that space; they held value there and as the night drew to a close I believe they didn’t want that feeling to end.

It was this experience that sparked inside of me a deep passion for ‘Creative Youth Development’*. This passion was accompanied by a plethora of unanswered questions surrounding ideas about how I could continue to teach in a way that allowed my students to arrive at a similar point those boys in my community workshop had. These questions, when met by my faith, have made way for more meaningful experiences, some of which I will endeavour to unpack within this series.

There is no formula to teaching, and I still have many unanswered questions. For the most part, we as teachers are learning just as much as our students are, and that’s the way it should be. The moment we think we have reached an arrival point, is the same moment we should cease teaching. It’s a journey, one that we ought to travel together. And one that I endeavour to travel by faith.
 
By Hannah Darkins
Dance Educator, Creative Youth Development Advocate


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