This series is a part of the Creating With Kids Interview Project! I have set out to interview 52 dance teachers working with young children everyday. By doing this project, I have learned that you are all amazing, hard working, creative and inspiring! I hope you enjoy the interviews and can take something special away from each one. A look inside a dance teacher’s class, is a look inside a dance teacher’s heart. -Maria
Zan is an early childhood movement and dance specialist living and teaching in Southern Vermont. She teachers infants to toddlers to preschoolers to middle schoolers! She has worked with teens with special needs and has taught modern to adults, mainly to keep the ability to talk to adults. (ha!) Zan has a BS in Early Childhood Education and is working on her MA in Creativity Studies. She attended the teacher training programs at the National Dance Institute in Santa Fe, NM, The Creative Dance Institute in Seattle, WA. and Circus Yoga at Kripalu in Lenox, MA.
Maria: Paint us a picture of your typical teaching day?
Zan: I make a list of where I am going. It varies from one school or studio to 4 a day – 14-16 classes per week. I drive from place to place and carry in bags of props – just in case. It’s better to have too much stuff available then too little.
Maria: In a few sentences, describe your teaching philosophy.
Zan: Know your subject so well that you never have to teach it the same way twice – unless you want to! Good teachers are always learning ways to share what they know.
Maria: If I came to observe you teach today, what is the first quality I would notice about you as a teacher?
Zan: You would notice how connected I am with the group. “Wow it’s the first day and she knows how to read a group! Did she just make up that chant about potatoes?”
Maria: What are 2 things you love about teaching, and one thing you don’t like very much at all.
Zan: I love how much I laugh and how much the kids laugh. In addition I love it when the classroom teachers finally (!) join in. I have a difficult time when teachers or parents correct behavior from the sidelines.
Maria: What surprises you the most about teaching dance to young children?
Zan: Things that make them laugh.
Maria: If you were going to speak to a group of aspiring creative dance teachers, what would you tell them?
Zan: I would tell them it is unnecessary to reinvent the wheel but it is imperative to find different ways to make the wheel turn. Here are some ways to do it. Now you try.
Maria: Share with us one teaching moment that you will never forget.
Zan: Way to many of those! Over all it is hard to forget how it feels when the kids run screaming to me and hug my legs when I enter the room!
Maria: Teachers of young children need a pocket full of management techniques and tricks to keep things on track. What is one trick in your pocket that almost never fails?
Zan: When things get too wild I have them line up for the Magic Forest”. They make tree shapes and sneak up behind me when my back is turned. When I announce that it is time to gather firewood they run back to the starting line. The next activity is for the trees to run and hit the big drum that I hold up high one by one. Running, jumping and smacking a drum are great for getting the ja-ja’s out! After that wood choppers swing axes and then we all shout “Timber” as the trees fall to the ground.
Maria: What is your inspiration behind your curriculum and your Yodagamo Cards?
Zan: I am inspired by the relationships between dance, yoga, sports and games. Although each area has it’s differences such as vocabulary, rules and rituals, it is impossible not to notice the similarities with regards to focus, concentration, strength, flexibility, adaptability, cooperation, coordination to name a few. I believe that initially finding unexpected commonalities between people, as well as as activities, is an ideal way to then explore the differences.
Maria: Since teachers continue to learn too, what is one teaching goal that you are working towards?
Zan: I love teaching in themes for the day. For example if the preschool is learning the letter “D” I improvise and do activities that start with the letter. Dodging, darting, ducking. Dog dances, duck walks, dinosaur yoga positions! My over all goal is the ability to tie together themes with no prep time.
Maria: Share with us your most favorite creative dance lesson so we can all use it tomorrow. You know, Maria’s Movers style!
Zan: Today it is “The Drabby, Raggy, Crabby Prince and Princesses” I use Lynn Stanfords variations on “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and the prince(esses) move according to the quality of the music. The slow dramatic music inspires crabbiness, the march or music box variation inspires more energy and fun. “Show me how crabby you are with shapes and movement…now show me how you move and look when you are happy go lucky”.
p.s. you can connect with Zan on her website. Thank you Zan for being a part of the project! “Don’t reinvent the wheel, but find a different way to get the wheel to turn” is brilliant advice!