Steppin’ It Up – In-Depth Post #3

Well the past couple weeks have been busy as always, but they have also been busier on the dance front! My classes continued with my hip hip class mentor Bev and I think I have made some steps in my confidence and capabilities in our group dance!

I had two more classes with Alyssa and Elyssa at Room To Move and I am proud to say that we have almost choreographed the entire song! I should say, however, that we are only doing a one and a half minute trimmed down version. Nonetheless, this is certainly an accomplishment! As I may or may not have mentioned before, we are dancing to the song Confident by Demi Lovato in our class and are going to be filming a music video of our dance at our last class, which is only two weeks away! These classes are going by so quickly! The song has its challenges with a fairly quick beat, meaning that some of the moves are a little difficult up to pace. I have been keeping up with it pretty well in classes but I wanted a chance to really practice it out in a relaxed environment. So, this morning, Alyssa, Elyssa, and I got together at Elyssa’s house for a little over an hour to practice it together lots! We also wanted to use this time to film some clips of our dance so we can show you some of our moves and progress, however, unfortunately there were some technical difficulties in uploading them today. We filmed multiple clips of us individually doing the dance as well as together in one group however it seems that computers have caused us agony today and are not willing to support our learning as well as our mentor does! I will post again soon with the videos once Elyssa and the continual confrontation with computers have sorted themselves out.

Now for the mentoring. Bev is not going to be my mentor for the entire project, however, for the time being she is my teacher and guide in learning. So, with that in mind, here’s to address a few things about how our mentor relationship is going.

Obviously Bev is quite a bit older than me, so you could say, contextually, we are from “different generations”. In some cases this could be an issue when communicating openly with each other, however I have found that because Bev is so friendly and relatable, as I mentioned in my previous post, this hasn’t really been an issue. With that in mind I would say our mentor relationship is going well.

To answer question one of this week’s mentor relationship topics, “What went particularly well during your mentor sessions?” I would say that first of all, I have made a lot of progress! Some contributing factors to this are definitely that I am getting more comfortable with myself and also with the people around me.  As we have now had a couple of classes, the environment is starting to become more familiar along with the other people in my class and things are becoming a sort of habit. Meaning, for example, that we have our spots in the room we always stand and we know the people who talk more and who talk less in classes.

From this I have been also able to communicate better with my mentor. For example, this past week, when we were running through our dance one more time at the end of class and some of the people for the next class were waiting outside I was feeling a little uncomfortable with them watching a little through the door (I stand right beside the door). With a little encouragement from Elyssa, I wasn’t afraid to ask if I could close the door for that run through, just to make it a little less awkward. Of course Bev said that was fine, but this made me a little more comfortable practicing it that last time.

“What learning challenges emerged?”As with anything we do, the learning is only valuable if we can retain the knowledge that we have gained. This is especially important in dance as any final product relies on the memorization of not only how to do a skill, but also when and where to do it. As I said before, I have been keeping up fairly well in classes with the pace of the learning and the moves we are doing, this is a beginner class after all, but I am still not quite as confident as I should be to really do all the moves justice. To hold myself accountable for this I suggested that we (Elyssa, Alyssa, and I) meet to run through it a few times in a more relaxed environment. This was nice to do because I am good friends with both Elyssa, and Alyssa so I think we all felt more comfortable running through it and working out a couple weak spots in certain moves, like the hip sways at the start of the routine for example. Part way through our rehearsal today the three of us just stood in a mini circle and swung our hips back and forth for about five minutes and evaluated each other from head to shoulders to feet. I must say that this was very effective because by the end of it I was looking a lot more “Confident” in my posture, position, and presentation of the hip sways!

Bev has also been sending us videos, that we record of our dance each week at the end of class, to practice with. I am not sharing these because they have our entire class in them and I do not have everyone’s permission. This is another very helpful thing that Bev does to improve our communication and help us out in our improvement given the tight timeline. I have been able to practice at least a couple times each week with these videos on my own at home in a little spare time.

Question four, “What logical challenges affected your communication?”, brings out a couple things that are specific to the class environment that I am in right now. This includes, the number of people in the class, and how little time we spend working together. Though there are only around 10 people in the class, it isn’t a one on one setting and therefore some little details or moves that I could use a little help and improvement with I don’t always ask about. Not only would this take far too long if everyone asked about everything, but it would also be unnecessary for people to learn about things that they might be very good at already. Nonetheless, I recognize that this is only a class and I will be moving on to hopefully a strong mentorship in a one on one setting later in the project. And for the time being, I have been able to work through most of the little issues with things like hip sways and body rolls on my own and with some help from my fellow learners from TALONS!

It is also difficult in this class setting because we only meet for one hour each week. Which it turns out, goes by very quickly! One minute we’re step touching in warm up and the next we’re running it through from the top reviewing everything we learned on the day. However, as they say, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’, so surely it’s a good thing that this is the case.

Well that’ll be about it for now, however I’ll be back soon with some clips of what I’ve been up to as soon as possible! I’ve been having a lot of fun with this project so far and I hope I can sway into our final classes and video presentation just as smoothly!

Circle Synthes(es)

Well here we are again. As I described in my first document of learning one year ago, everything in life recurs, it comes back to us, happens again. So here is the recurrence of my TALONS Social Studies processes and learning. Now I can utilize that plural version of the word ‘synthesis’.  

In my leadoff post last year in, what was, Social Studies 10, I started off by explaining what synthesis meant, and why I had chosen it as the title for my first blog post, along with the word ‘circle’. The main description I gave to the former word is that it is the culmination of many parts and what you could call building blocks to create a whole. In this case I am taking pieces of the world, pieces of skills, and pieces of learning, and bringing them together to create who I am. So, of course, I will be continuing that journey this year. I added the word ‘circle’ because, as I previously mentioned, it all happens again and we go through those same synthesizing process multiple times in our different journeys.

In that first post, just to remind all of you, we were meant to discuss the questions that were brought up in class, “Where are we going?” and “Where have we been?” As I explained then, “There is an infinite number of ways to answer the questions…” however, I have a slightly better idea how to do so now, now that I’ve seen a bit of my future that is. I’ve seen what TALONS Social Studies looks like, I’ve seen more of what my life looks like, and I’ve seen more of what the world looks like. I made my way through “Social Studies 10” developing a better understanding of what is important to me in this world. One of the ways that helped me significantly in this process was the roleplay of Laura Secord in the Canadian Confederation studies, as well as the fictional character I created for my final presentation, John O’Callaghan. I used these characters to help myself see other perspectives in historical events and it gave me a lot of insight into what they would have felt, as well as what I would have felt in those situations.  This is something that I would like to do more of this year, possibly with the French Revolution, which I am very interested in learning about. I’m also excited for other major events in history like the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. These are all parts of history that I don’t know much about so I would love to delve deeper into some of the backstories of these and the impacts they had on the world.

A key message that I finished off the year with in my Final presentation, was to appreciate what you have and not to get too hung up on the past. I think this is important as I move forward, just keeping my eyes up and on the world around me as it is so special. Additionally, this is going to be my last official TALONS semester, so there’s some reason right there for enjoying the present. I would also like to take this into my learning this year, if at all possible, and try to look at not only how we changed from negative events in the past, but also how we developed from some positive ones. I completely agree that we must see how we got here, the good, the bad, AND the ugly, but I find that we do often sway more towards the latter portion of that phrase in our modern world, and possibly past, but I think it’s crucial that we appreciate the good too. It will also help us find light in times of trouble today in current issues and problems.

Another way I’d like to utilise different perspectives in my learning, other than a direct roleplay, is through our class discussions and also our many readings. I very much enjoy both of these activities and I want to make sure that I continue to participate in them enthusiastically like last year as that was a lot of fun. More so, on the note of gaining a piece to my whole, I want to particularly try to hear, value, and understand the different perspectives of the authors that we read as well as my fellow classmates. In this way I will be working towards the Curricular Competency “Explain different perspectives on past or present people, places, issues, and events by considering prevailing norms, values, worldviews, and beliefs(perspective).” I will also be working towards the Competency “Use Social Studies inquiry processes and skills to: ask questions; gather, interpret, and analyze ideas; and communicate findings and decisions.”

Much of this, was thoroughly achieved or closely attempted this week in our classes, for example. I spent a lot of time annotating the reading on Columbus that was assigned, from which I gained a lot of new ideas on various different topics, not just Columbus specifically or how the world’s view of history in general is sometimes tinted a certain shade.

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Here you can see some of my highlightings and notes in the margins of key ideas I found throughout the reading. I hope to continue this with all readings this semester.

I hope to devote more time to these readings as well as other elements of the Philosophy Pop Quiz this year as those are all things that I am passionate about and enjoy doing and they will also benefit my learning in Social Studies and in general as well.

I also gained a lot of new viewpoints through our discussions as a class and with Mr. Jackson. I think it will be very useful this semester to hear the unique perspectives of my classmates on some of the key events in the history that we will be studying, as well as on the topic of some current events, *wink *cough *the United States Election*.

Another core competency that I would like to focus on is “Asses how prevailing conditions and actions of individuals and groups affect events, decisions, and developments (cause and consequence).” This is something that I hope to look at as we move forward more this semester in major events.

I found the above also relates a lot to what I looked at this week in the Columbus package relating to the big Idea I chose, “The physical environment influences the nature of political, social, and economic change.” This was an area that I also found very intriguing in our class discussion as Mr. Jackson brought up specifically the idea that all civilizations were “developed” and “civilized” just in their own ways and to their own individual environments. This is again something that I hope to focus on as we discuss other occurrences in history and why they occurred. This is the epitome of taking a different perspective at things, as, even as the often progressive-minded-citizens that we are, this is likely a new way to see things. How might life have been for us if we accepted the ways of those people? Did they need the technology Europeans brought? Why didn’t they take over the rest of the world like Europeans did? Bringing it back to that original idea of ‘circle synthesis’, you can see how this Big Idea connects infinitely to the fourth one, “Collective identity is constructed and can change over time.”

An interesting point that arose in our final discussion this week was the concept of “young” and “old” civilizations. An example of “young” being The United States of America and an example of “old” being Germany. I found the different points of this concept interesting when looking at the reasoning behind these countries’ actions in history and in the modern world. It was very a very intriguing point to think about and made me wonder, if Europe is old, what happens when they get older? What happens when we get older, will they become our grandparents? And then the inevitable, or is it, can a civilization die? How will we be affected by that? Does our civilization have emotions? Will we grieve?

Overall I think this will shape up to be a very unique and unpredictable semester. I am sure I will learn endless new things about myself and about the world, and I don’t know exactly where it will take me, or us, but one thing is for certain, it will all come around again in the end.

The First Step – In-Depth Post #2

One step to the right, and spin around on your left foot, and here we are again!

Yup, here we are, right back at the start of in-depth and jumping right into it all, literally. This week was the real beginning, and a very big week for me. I had my first dance class! Well not my first ever, but let’s just say it’s been at least ten years since the last so, this was certainly a change. And can I start by saying that it was so much fun! I went in to the class unsure of what to expect and a little bit nervous, as you might expect. Nevertheless, I came out bounding with excitement and ready to move, which I will be doing a lot more of in the near future!

My class was at the Room to Move Dance and Fitness Centre in Port Coquitlam, and it was taught by my current mentor Bev Soh.

Credit: Richie Lubaton
Credit yourpolepal.com

Fun fact: it turns out me and Elyssa were taught by “Mme Soh” as a TOC in our grade seven class! Further, she even taught us some dance in PE! It was very funny when we all realized where we had seen each other before when we were introducing ourselves before the start of the class.

One of the things that I found really helpful in making my first class so enjoyable was the people I was with. First off, being with a few of my friends was certainly a factor that allowed me to be more comfortable. As I mentioned earlier, in my first post, I am doing this project somewhat alongside my fellow learners Alyssa and Elyssa, I know, the pair of names is great right? None of us have done any dance in very recent history, at least to my knowledge, and so we are all kind of “in the same boat” on this adventure. After just this first experience I can tell that having these two other people to talk to for feedback and support is going to be very useful throughout the project, and also make it a lot of fun!

Credits to Mira
Credits to Mira

Additionally, Mira, also in our TALONS class, is also in our hip hop class! However, she is not doing dance for her in-depth project but rather just takes this class from time to time with her mom. She was actually the one who recommended us to this class and teacher, and let me just say, it was a very good recommendation.

At this point, Bev is my main mentor. At the conclusion of these classes, or possibly earlier, I will begin to work with another mentor who will help me for the remainder of the project in achieving my goals. I am hoping to really look for someone in the next couple of weeks to be my next mentor. With any luck I’ll have them by my next post! Nonetheless, for the time being I am in the hands of a very talented and experienced dancer herself, and that is our Hip Hop class teacher, Bev Soh.

To speak to some of the topics discussed in this week’s introduction to mentorship skills and the background of our in-depth mentor, Bev has a wealth of knowledge spurring from many different experiences that have led her to be the skilled dancer and teacher she is now. She started out with a bachelor’s degree in Art and Education at SFU. From there she has gone on to become a dancer in the BC Lions Felions Dance Team, and danced at the 2008 Grey Cup in Montreal. Another notable achievement was dancing at the Closing Ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Bev has experience in many different dance areas too, so her skills and expertise go well above just the basics. She has also been a part of many other dance groups and become an experienced dance teacher, adjudicator, and choreographer over the years as well. You can find more information on her background on her personal website here.  Finally, as I mentioned earlier in this post that I was actually taught by her as a substitute teacher, she has experience teaching young students and in a classroom and learning environment. Although this isn’t the same as teaching a dance class, it can be very similar, and many of the skills that help her be an outgoing and involved substitute teacher also help her be a successful teacher to newcomers to her passion.

Most importantly, that’s what it is, her passion. Dance is something that she has obviously worked her whole life for and it shows in the work that she does. Though we did not directly talk to Bev about what these experiences were like for her, as we are only taking her class, you can tell that they have all made her the amazing dancer she is now and built on something she loves doing.  You can see in the way that she teaches the class, even to a first-time-beginner like myself, that she is having fun! That is the most important thing, in dance and in anything, you have fun! That is probably the biggest piece of ‘wisdom’ I have learnt from Bev so far. By extension, having fun allows you to let loose more in your dance and just go for it, because it’s not so much about what other people think, it’s about what you think, and feel, and that is what makes it look good. Mind you, I should add that I have also started to learn the difficult skill of body rolling, which I struggled with a little in middle school, to say the least. We had to follow a dance to a song that we found online for a presentation in PE in grade 8, and lets just say my body roll wasn’t the most pleasing to the eye. So we’re off to a good start with the dance there too!

Some of the things I have learnt so far from Bev in terms of how to be a good mentor and facilitating learners also involve having fun and also being positive and energetic in what you do. Some of the first things I noticed about Bev were that she was very kind, friendly, and welcoming. I was kind of expecting such an experienced dancer to be more formal and expecting of us per say, but Bev was very open and supportive to everyone in the group. Because of her energy and positive attitude, it became a very casual atmosphere which really helped me feel comfortable in trying all these new moves and steps, and dance in general. She also treated everyone like she’d known them for a long time and also like we all knew the space well and had been there before, casually saying we could all grab a chair to get started on the choreography. Though this may seem a little too informal, it actually kind of makes you feel that way about yourself, that you know her and should feel comfortable with her and also everyone there. It plays with your mind. This is a really important skill when working with other people and when mentoring people who may be uncomfortable or unsure of themselves and what they are doing.

Further, I noticed that she always had an eye out for people in the class who needed some extra help on a move, and she gave extra instruction and support when it was needed. For example, when we started on the body rolls, and I think she noticed I was giggling a bit in a little self-conscious and nervous state, she spent an extra minute or so explaining how they work, recognizing that I hadn’t really done them before, or at least, didn’t know how. I must say also that her skill in looking out for everyone is quite remarkable in this setting as we are a group of about 10 in a room and she is facing away from us. She can see us all in the mirror at the front of the room but she is also dancing at the same time to lead us. It’s quite a talent!

Something else that really helped me in my first outing, was how she started. Once we were all in the room and had finished introducing ourselves with our names. She cranked up some music and started our warm up, shouting out to make sure we were spaced and to just follow along. This impromptu style made it a lot easier for me because otherwise I would have been very nervous and shy to start. It could have taken me a long time to get going, but this just forced me into it without giving me time to think.

These are all some great skills that I think I can take forward to help me if I ever become a mentor for someone or am ever helping someone in the future in general. They are also some great techniques in terms of facilitating all the learners in a group.

Well it certainly was a great start to my project this week. Thanks to some efficient mentoring and teaching, we were able to get a little ahead in learning the choreography to the song Confident that you can look forward to seeing a video of at the end of these classes! I also hope to get some small practice clips of myself up soon.

I hope next brings just as much excitement and I’ll be ready to slide in to the next move!