Stories from the Field: Teaching Artist Alejandro Bahia at North Beach Elementary

Hi my name is Alejandro Bahia, and this Fall 2012 semester I am teaching at North Beach Elementary. Last year was my first year at North Beach Elementary, so I am very interested in seeing how this year will compare to the previous one. Last year, I experienced a little “pushback” as a few of my students declared that dance teachers are women only. It took a little effort but I believe that I was able to change a few minds.

My first day this Fall semester at North Beach Elementary was September 18. The ink on my lesson plans wasn’t even dry yet! I went to the cafeteria to meet my students and to my surprise none of my students had changed. Physically, they were the same. There weren’t any great spurts of growth that happened over the summer, or some sort of air of sophistication that hinted to a much wiser and mature person. No, there was no change. None. I took a a deep breath. I tried to conceal my disappointment to myself.

“Bicycle Bahia! Are we dancing today?”

“Hey, look the dance teacher is here!”


A group of kids giggled and laughed.

I was relieved. One, they remembered my name. Two, they called me a dance teacher. Three, they thought dance was “awesome”. Truth be told, number two and three are accomplishments not to be taken lightly.

So far so good, I thought to myself. I set up my sound equipment which consist of an iPod and a wireless bluetooth stereo speaker. All the kids gathered around me trying to steal a glimpse of my playlist so they could make a rapid assessment on whether or not I had good music.

“What are you going to play?” Sammie, one of my students from last year, asked me.

“The Wobble.”

“The Wobble?”

“Yes, the Wobble.” I replied playfully.

I pressed the little white arrow on my iPod and the music, as if magically, began pumping out of the speakers. The kids began to gather around. Is this how the Pied Piper felt? I quickly showed them the pattern of the dance which they picked up right away. Five minutes later, they were high-fiving each other, giggling and having a good time. I’ve planted the seed of pattern recognition, and they didn’t even know it. Soon they’ll be creating their own dances. I was very content with my moral victory. It’s not easy to out flank a group of twenty 3rd and 4th graders! However, my moral victory quickly dissolved away.

“Bicycle Bahia, let’s do the “Kick Step Out” Dance!”

Janet looked at me wide eyed, awaiting my response. I hesitated. I didn’t remember the dance. The dance I created and I didn’t remember it. While I was busy out flanking them, the students had taken a simple frontal assault.

“Oh Janet, you don’t remember that dance. It was such a long time ago!”

“No, no, we remember the whole thing!”

“Oh reaaaalllly? Weeee’llllllll, let’s see about that!”

I stopped the music that was playing and searched my iPod for the song . I found it and pressed the arrow for it to play.

To my amazement, they remembered the whole thing.

They sang in unison.

“Kick Step Out, Kick Step Out, Knee, Knee, Get up to get down, Ski Ski Ski, (Pause) Ski Ski Ski!”

They continued to dance the whole routine flawlessly. I was dumbstruck as to how well they performed. I’ll sheepishly admit that some of the students offered to teach me the parts I had forgotten. We’ve barely begun and the student has become the teacher.

So, I guess “begrudgingly” I’ll take back my words. Yes, my students have grown tremendously since last year. They are more sophisticated in how they approach and learn dance, more outgoing, and have greater self esteem and leadership skills. I can’t wait to see where this year take us!

North Beach Elementary is part of the Arts for Learning Youth Development/ Building Assets program funded by The Children’s Trust. The Children’s Trust is a dedicated source of revenue established by voter referendum to improve the lives of children and families in Miami-Dade County.

This entry was published on November 13, 2012 at 3:38 pm. It’s filed under Students, Teaching Artists and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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