Sunday, September 10, 2017

accurate words

Having attended several conferences and workshops this summer on teaching I find continue to ask several questions. The only consistent answer from other attendees is very interesting. The response I keep getting to these questions is " depends on the interpretation." One presenter went so far as to reply that interpretations are determined by the local, regional, state, country specific, and often socioeconomic or religious influences on the presenter/teacher and the student/audience.

So here are a few questions to ponder as we traverse the fall.

1. How often do we use accurate words?  (remember one person's definition of a word may not be the same definition or understanding used for the same word by another person). Does the audience/class makeup affect what you say and how you say what you say?

2a. Political correctness. Does it apply to more than ethnic race? Gender? Sexual Orientation? Dance genre (studio-academia-conservatory-theater/concert dance-competition)?

2b. Is comedy an effective tool to lighten the classroom's mood? Should comedy used in bars or for adult humor be used when working with any student? Should an instructor be willing to same one thing to older students when the same phrase would never be used when working with youth? Or are my expectations of acceptable phrases based on what influences my life? And if so, should I expect others to meet the expectations I set forth for myself?

3. Assumptions. How specific are labels? Folk-which region, state, country, or religion? What does dance studio mean?

4. Urban. In which/what instance?

5. Community. Class (economic or dance grouping)? I live in a small luster of rural communities that are so packed with people one might consider the community urban.

6. Personal journeys. Dance life. Are there any hard and fast truths beyond we are born and we die? Personal opinions may be well intentioned misconceptions.

7. What is an appropriate setting to ask questions? When does questioning transition from seeking knowledge to being combative? How do we as teachers and educators maintain open dialogue for growth in learning? How do we as teachers and educators maintain objectivity even if our beliefs or methods may be challenged?

So these questions have been buzzing around in my head for about ten weeks and have raised one further question that I believe I had and asked last spring.

8. When researching how do we as students recognize when our objectivity is actually more bias or prejudice? How do we ensure our research is not influenced by preconceptions of what is research?

Not answers just more questions. Time to reflect.


  1. Hi Davis, I'm not going to reply to all but there are a couple of the above that I would like to comment on. 2b, is an interesting observation, yet I reacted to the word "comedy". I'm not sure if the word has a slightly different meaning in the US? I see no problem using my sense of humour in my classes if a) it is age appropriate b) it is not harmful and c) it is natural and not false. I have, had over my working life, received positive feedback because "of my sense of fun” but maintaining the discipline expected in a ballet class. I feel, it is about finding the balance between keeping the class flowing/the pupils happy and motivated, and aiming to maintain the goals I have set. So yes, I do feel humour is an effective tool used for certain pupils in the correct settings.

    You also ask, “how often do we use accurate words?” Living in a foreign country I am particularly aware of the words I chose when I am addressing not just pupils and students, but friends and colleagues. What is an accurate word though, as you mention above a definition is subjective? Yes, the pupils in the class do influence what and how I say things. My perspective on this however, is that it is also because I get to know my pupils or I’ve known them over a period of time. Like the use of humour in a class, how I convey something is based on my relationship with them.


    1. Samantha,

      I am so glad you replied today! According to the "Safeguarding Our Children" certification I just completed for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. Comedy does not equate with fun. I asked my question because this summer I was subjected to more than one adult instructor using inappropriate attempts at humor when teaching or facilitating classes and sessions. The attempts at humor would have missed the mark if given by drag queens presenting a comedic monologue in a seedy bar. So I agree that humor and comedy are interesting animals and may not equate with fun. So I have changed my thought process from age appropriate to that of if I would not say something in front of three year old children then I should not say those words when teaching students of any age.

      Discipline was also a buzz word in the certification I just took. How an instructor reprimands, corrects, or provides criticism may be seen as punishment or discipline and should not be handled by instructors, counselors, or volunteers. Do I agree with all of this? I am not sure as I am still attempting to navigate and translate how this lack of discipline fits with the structured environment of activities the certification program encouraged. Again, where these rules and guidelines are considered normal and appropriate impact how I decipher how my staff/faculty needs to approach students in learning situations at the two churches where we offer outreach classes for mental and physical well being.

      Getting to know our pupils beyond the borders of the classroom/studio was also considered potential risky behavior for setting up allegations of inappropriate contact. So now I question how the church or others may actually view what, how, and why I and my staff/faculty teach the way we do.

      I must now be more cognizant of where I am teaching in addition to my student population. We have several English as a Second Language speakers in our classes who are from other countries.

      I am so grateful you wrote the thoughts you have written even if they make my head hurt more. At some point these concepts and questions can and will be over analyzed. However, my steadfast question from last spring regarding discipline, authority, right vs. wrong, social acceptance, and a few other lesser issues mentioned in Skype chats is how do we as instructors, teachers, and educators maintain that fine line between what is right and wrong in a particular class and genre at that time? As instructors, teachers, educators, and even as friends with adult students and colleagues how do we remember that our right is not another person's moral right? As instructors, teachers, and educators at what point do we become afraid to speak and move?

      Thank you, Samantha! I enjoy your comments.