The curriculum also describes what the government expects from teachers:
Teaching is key to student success. Teachers are responsible for developing appropriate instructional strategies to help students achieve the arts curriculum expectations, as well as appropriate methods for assessing and evaluating student learning.
It’s possible for a school to hire a dance teacher, but Fisher-Stitt tells me that the subjects are primarily given by generalist teachers. Which means that, even though it’s in the curriculum, dance is not taught in every school. “Usually the generalist teachers refuse to teach dance, because they don’t feel comfortable working with their bodies”. She makes a point there, I’ve worked with many school teachers and the first thing they always tell me is: I don’t know how to move. When I ask what they’re afraid of, they tell me that they don’t know if they’re able to learn and teach dance technique. Fisher-Stitt explains: “Dance in elementary schools is about creating, improvisation, expression and looking at dance, it is not about specific skills. Dance technique won’t be taught until secondary school”. I especially liked this paragraph from the curriculum:
Dance is expressive movement with purpose and form. All dance communication is transmitted through movement – that is, through the body movements and gestures of the dancer. A dancer is, therefore, both the performer and the instrument through which dance is expressed. It is not recommended that students at the elementary level be given instruction in formal dance techniques (e.g., ballet, Graham, Límon techniques). Instead, students will develop their own movement vocabularies that they will use to create dance pieces that communicate their feelings, ideas, and understandings. This approach to dance, as outlined in this curriculum, is based on dance pedagogies (e.g., Laban), and focuses on the use of movement and the elements of dance instead of rote repetition of dance steps.
So in that way, the generalist teachers won’t have to learn specific dance skills. But how do we change their perspective on dance? “Recently, we started a project at YU, where we taught elementary school teachers how to teach dance. It was a mentoring system; every teacher gets a mentor. Somebody to coach them throughout the process.” By giving the teachers a mentor (dance teacher), they won’t have to immediately start teaching dance; first the teacher can be a teaching assistant in the dance class and then gradually he or she can take over the class. That way, they have access to ongoing feedback and advice.
Unfortunately, the project is not active now. “We need the government’s support. Without it, there is no project.” And until governments realize how important dance in education is, it will be difficult to get funding. “Dance is an essential part of educating human beings. It should simply be part of children’s education.” She concludes the talk by saying she is “very optimistic” and sees a lot of possibilities. That makes me very hopeful for the future of education.