The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Friday, May 21, 2004

C has a disorder that makes him dance a complicated, fast paced, ethnic folk dance.

It's on his statement of educational need. 'Will be hard to prevent from dancing when experiencing stress'. I laughed when I saw it. We should all be so blessed.

On Thursday, I witnessed C's dancing for the first time. In a group activity, designed to shift responsibility for learning and structuring class work onto the children's shoulders, C had decided to vote himself 'team leader'.

The prime responsibility of a team leader, as C saw it, was to discipline his workers.
The errant children had incurred his wrath by working quietly without response. (They've been steadily and thoroughly trained not to encourage C's outbursts - it's the only way to cut down on violent outbursts in the classroom.)
C's version of being team leader involved practically goose stepping around the classroom, beating his team viciously about the heads with his work booklet, and screaming at them, eyes and neck bulging, that they should stop doing all that work, because they simply weren't working as a TEAM, and WHY would they not stop to listen to their leader?
(Privately I was convinced the lad would go far - I can't see much else he needs to become leader of a political party.)

Things came to a head, however, and C needed to dance. Of course, this is not a simple proposition - he has to dance to the correct music, and we all have to watch. By the time I and the class support teacher had almost drained the poor boy of the energy to continue screaming by calmly asking him to say the magic word, he was desperately in need of release.
Folk music at the ready, we stopped the class, to watch. It's part of his problem that he does need an audience - and it was the end of an almost decent lesson anyway.

C began the most complicated, precise and skilful dance, the speed and rhythm increasing far beyond the point when we all thought he could not possibly continue.
Fascinated, a gaggle of eleven year old boys congregated behind C, trying to kick as high, trying to keep up. They - in common with most eleven year olds - jumped and leapt much like well meaning playful monkey-children.

Somehow, the contrast between C's steely, driven determination heightened everybody's awareness of the sheer skill inherent in his footwork.
We ended the lesson, and in doing so, ended our own slower, more ponderous dance.
C happier, the children admiring, and the staff more sympathetic.

No longer just an annoying attention seeker, now we realised how focussed, how driven C must be to master such a dance.
I doubt, in any area of my life, I could say the same.