Created by Reyna Mondragon (kNOwBOX dance Manager of Community Engagement)
August 10, 2021, Denton, Texas, USA
Photo from 2019, Reyna Mondragon Teaching a Modern class at Texas Woman's University
2021 has been a complete excitement compared to last year. This time last year, I remember preparing for the uncertainty of what the new school year would look like. I remember sketching out a syllabus for a technique class and finding myself scratching what I had written down and rewriting something that, at the time, I was insecure, unhappy, and scared about. I wasn’t sure that what I was writing would work for a class that could either potentially be remote, hybrid, or synchronous. I was also trying to keep up with some research, which meant participating in workshops that were only offered through an online platform for a low price, free, or in-kind donations. Taking those classes was a privilege, but I can’t say it was easy, even with the remote option. I was missing physical touch, witnessing, experiencing in person, and the emotional connection that happens when you are learning, interpreting, and listening. At the same time, it was amazing that I could take a class from local, national and international artists/companies like Jacob Jonas, Jennifer Mabus, DGDG, Kristin Damrow, Sarah Reich, and Yin Yue, among others.
Returning to school?
As we enter the fall of 2021, I am once again finding myself writing a syllabus for a few classes that I hope will happen completely face to face. As I am writing the syllabus, I have an overwhelming feeling of joy and yet also anxiety. I can’t help but think of all of the “what ifs”: What if a student gets sick? What will I do to accommodate? Will they get the same education? What happens if I get sick? What if COVID gets worse? What if (blah blah blah)? These are some of the same questions I was asking myself last year. I can’t necessarily say that I feel more prepared than I did last year; however, I think I will adapt just like everyone else. I feel like I have some sort of mild PTSD from the previous teaching season, which makes me wonder how other teachers are feeling this time around. In this blog post I offer a few themes that are helping me process the potential of what this teaching year could look like: 1.) Don’t reinvent the wheel, 2.) Group work, and 3.) Less is more.
1. Don’t reinvent the wheel
Your curriculum does not have to consist of material that only comes straight from you. #LESSISMORE
What if your students listen to a podcast during your class?
While listening, maybe you stop and start to leave room for questions.
➢ Song Exploder (great for a music for dancers class)
What if you don’t teach the movement class that day?
Have the students learn from another artist in video form through a social media platform. Curate/Choose something that you think will add diversity to their learning experience. If this is an option you would like to consider, make sure you reach out to the artist and ask them if you can use their material. Maybe there will be a small fee or donation, but trust me it is totally worth it. They will appreciate it and you will as well.
➢ Kristin Damrow & Company on YouTube
➢ Sarah Reich (Tap) on YouTube
➢ Jennifer Mabus @jenmabus on IGTV
➢ Bachata Dance Academy on YouTube
What if you research what other teachers are doing and you adopt and adapt?
I found that sourcing and adapting was a great way to keep my curriculum up to date. Something that, at the time and still now, we need to keep pushing. If you haven’t checked out our
➢ A Choreographer’s Handbook by Jonathan Burrows
➢ Dance Pedagogy for a Diverse World: Culturally Relevant Teaching in Theory, Research and Practice by Nyama McCarthy-Brown (great for k-12 and university level)
➢ The Artist Way by Julia Cameron
2. Group work
During a time where everyone felt alone and separated, group work in the classroom seemed to be a thing that students enjoyed the most and wanted more of. I realized during COVID that just because we can’t see each other, touch each other, and have to be physically separated from each other, does not mean that group work in the classroom is something of the past. On the contrary! It needs to be something that should be considered more. Speaking from my university teaching perspective, group work gave the students the opportunity and the permission they needed to collaborate and interact with other human beings outside of their family and close friends. #TEAMWORKMAKESTHEDREAMWORK
2018 photo from kNOwBOX dance Meeting
From left to right: Yea Jean Choi, Martheya Nygaard, Reyna Mondragon, and Azaria Hogans
3. LESS IS MORE
Notice how I capitalized every letter? That is because I mean it. Things don’t have to be complicated in the classroom. Students don’t have to submit eight-page papers every week. Students don’t have to have excessive homework assignments during the week if they don’t have to. You don’t need to be grading every day of your life. So why put more stress in your life? I am not suggesting that you don’t need to hand out homework, and I’m not implying that you don’t need to continue your research. What I am trying to say is that it's okay to consider a break because you deserve it. Sometimes focusing on one thing is enough. Overwhelming yourself is overwhelming your students. For more insight on wellness, check out Dance Behind the Screen podcast Season 2 wellness episodes. There you can find information that focuses on the body and mind. #LESSISMORE
Cheers to Fall 2021
2020 was definitely a year of growth, challenges, and change. Cheers to Fall 2021, I hope you found my suggestions helpful and here's to an exciting new teaching season. GOOD LUCK to all the teachers out there. #YOUGOTTHIS
2016 Photo by Bill Cameron
Headshot of Reyna Mondragon
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For all recommended resources by DBS guests and kNOwBOX dance team, find blog posts on
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Covid-19, Teaching Tools, Wellness