Seeing Beyond What We See

It was the second relief lesson teaching one of my junior classes. It was halfway through the lesson and I had switched on the music again to run through a section of choreography we had learned previously. I watched as the class ran through the movements in time to the music and to the allocated counts, all except one student, who felt this was the appropriate time to freestyle with her own movement, thinking her position at the back of the group was hiding her from sight. As endearing and as entertaining as it was, I couldn’t help but feel I might encounter some trouble teaching her over the coming weeks. What I saw was a student straying off task, what I saw was a student who refused to participate in what the rest of the class was instructed to do. What I immediately saw was trouble.

As time went on and I encountered this student in class, I began to reflect deeper on her disengagement within my lessons. At the end of each lesson this student would ask me to play her music on the speakers and would freestyle in front of the mirrors, fully immersed within her own movement. Upon reflection I questioned whether maybe there was a learning barrier when it came to picking up movement taught by a teacher. I engaged this student in conversation after class and asked her questions about her experience with dancing. She was open, respectful and kind, and I came to see that she was an incredibly natural dancer. It wasn’t that she couldn’t engage with dance or didn’t respect me, it was that, for some reason or another, she struggled to learn and keep focused within the structure of a class. When given the freedom to move on her own accord, she didn’t need to be asked twice.

Although I appreciated her natural talent, I knew from my own experience this would only get her so far, and I desired her to go even further than that. It was the night before the last lesson I would have with this student that I heard a word of encouragement from God that I knew was for her. The following day I called this student over after the final lesson. She walked over sheepishly, thinking she was in trouble. I looked her in the eye and told her in the most honest way I could that I believed she had a gift, and that if she gave herself the chance to learn from others, to up-skill and grow, that I thought she could go far. She looked at me with watery eyes and threw her arms around me in a hug. I had a very strong feeling in that moment, that maybe she had never been told that before.

God is forever teaching me, to SEE beyond what I initially see about my students. If I can learn to see with a God lens, then I can go deeper- to envision what a student can be, rather than how they initially present within that certain moment. It is about a greater vision, about being authentic and honest with my encouragement, and often without the student being aware of it, it is about affirming who God has created them to be.

By Hannah Darkins
Dance Educator, Creative Youth Development Advocate