Archive | November, 2010

Precious Moments – Dance Teacher Edition – The Woodchip

18 Nov

I had a lovely dinner a few nights ago with a group of fellow dance educators.  As in any such gathering of like-minded professionals, we got to talking shop.  And drinking wine…

I have lots of funny stories from my position at the helm of various dance classes.  Children are hilarious, and when you combine their natural (albeit often unintentional) aptitude for comedy with specialized tight-fitting clothing, loud music, and a parent-free environment, great and wild times ensue.  I really love teaching and think my students are some of the smartest, kindest people I interact with.  But also, really and deeply funny.

For example, I’ll bet you’ve never considered what might happen if you send a 4-year-old to the bathroom and leave her unattended in the stall.  In my experience, all of the business goes fine, but the problem comes when Tiny Dancer emerges from the bathroom and rejoins the class.  She’s wearing her leotard alright, but what was once a private-parts covering garment has been turned into a confusing, x-rated harness.  It’s like a one-shouldered, crotchless jumpsuit.  She has turned it upside down, put her legs through the arm holes, her head and arm through one leg hole, and her other arm through the other.  She knows something isn’t quite right, but has decided to forge ahead, hoping that her confidence will see her through.

There are the 3 year olds who wear a skirt and no underpants to creative movement class and are discovered when the class is sitting in a circle, straddle stretching (and the mortified parents who attest to the fact that when Tiny Dancer left the house she was definitely wearing underpants).

Of course there is pants peeing, and even more unfortunate, pants pooping (and once when there was a poop smearing incident that I’d rather not think too much about).

Then there was the time that one of my male students told me (and the rest of the class) that his balls were really itchy.  I stood there stunned for a second, during which he sat down, peeled off his shoes, and went to town scratching his socked feet.  It was a proud moment, in the sense that the kid was learning his dance terminology.

A dad once asked me if his daughter could wear sunglasses for the spring recital because the lights seemed really bright to him.  In hindsight, I’m pretty pissed at myself that I suggested that she probably shouldn’t.  That would have been comedy gold.

I’ve got lots more where that came from, but the best of the best is definitely The Woodchip Story.  Everyone has a go-to move.  This is mine.

Picture 15 five-year olds in a tap-dancing frenzy (take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is not a nightmare, but rather a fun activity for children).  The class is drawing to a close, with 5 minutes left to go enjoy.  The children are all practicing shuffling off to buffalo, when out of the corner of my eye, I spy little Rita holding her crotch and wiggling uncomfortably.  This, of course, is nothing new.  Potty time is a regular event during tap-madness, and so I inquire.  “It hurts real bad right here” she says with an emphatic point.  Oh, man.  That is NOT my department, kiddo.  I asked “Is your mom/dad/sitter/whoever here?”  They’re not.  I explain that we’ve got a few more minutes and ask if the hurt can wait, or if it’s a “right now” problem.  It can wait.  Whew.  We continue shuffling off to buffalo.  I occasionally see Rita grabbing and looking uncomfortable, but with only a minute or two to go, I decide to just keep going.  More tapping.  Out of the corner of my eye I see Rita again.  Oh lordess, Now she has her arm up the leg of her leotard, down her tights and she is, for lack of a better word, rooting around.  Sensing that something climactic is about to happen, I hustle over just in time to be presented with…………… a woodchip, which Rita proudly places in my hand and I promptly (without missing a beat) shove in my pocket.

Why I would hold out my hand to take a crotch-woodchip is beyond my knowledge, why and how a woodchip got into her nether regions is even more baffling (does her body make them?) – I’ve thought about this a lot over the years and find that it’s best not to push that particular issue.  When I talked to Rita’s mom after class, she thought it was pretty funny.  When I gave her the woodchip (I know!  Why did I do it?!), she thought it was gross.



Fair Trade

6 Nov

Holy crap.  There are so many important things to care about.  As I write this, I’m feeling good about the cider I’m drinking from the farmer’s market and bad about the cinnamon coffee cake that I baked from a box (and is certainly full of commodity corn in one form and/or another).  Oh wait, the cider came in a plastic jug….. shoot.  I’m glad that my tee-shirt was made by workers who were paid a (debatably) “fair” wage, but sad that the company who made it is almost certainly run by douche bags who hate women.  It’s easy to feel like you’re always failing.  Like you’re falling short of getting things right.  I guess you could also say that it’s easy to feel like you’re always succeeding at least a little bit, but I was born and raised in the midwest, where passing up an opportunity to feel bad about yourself is frowned upon.

Anyway, a very smart friend of mine gives a bunch of craps about Fair Trade, and since she’s so smart and kind and caring, I decided that I should probably start caring more seriously about this too.  To be perfectly honest, this is the only way I ever grow to actually care about something – when I see someone I love and think is smart caring about the thing.  I mean, obviously, in one sense I care about fair trade.  When presented with stories about children sewing sneakers for hours and hours every day who doesn’t feel something tug at their insides?  I guess given our current political climate, I probably shouldn’t really try to find the answer to that question….. I digress.  The hard part for me is when I’m standing in an aisle someplace trying to talk myself into spending a few more bucks for coffee or olive oil or whatever.  It occurs to me that I completely separate the way I spend the money that comes my way from my overall inventory of Trying Not to Be a Jerk.  But all those old white guys (Hi, Dad!) are always saying that it’s all about money, so I’m going to try to start including this in my Jerk-Inventory – they can’t be wrong about everything.  I’m going to try to be more thoughtful about how I spend the money – about what I want it to do in the world aside from stuffing my insides with tasties and letting me board the red line.  I’m also going to try to embrace the mess and gray area of trying to do good things, rather than following my instinct, which is to just throw up my hands and say “oh well, this junk is complicated and I can’t figure out the perfect way to do this, so I’ll just opt out – look everyone else is.”  It’s so easy to just pass – to just wait.

But there’s my smart friend again, reminding me, without saying anything or putting pressure on me or anything like that, that maybe I could be doing a little bit more to be a little bit less of a jerk.  No pressure.  Okay, maybe a little pressure.  People’s lives are tied up in this stuff, after all.

This is my starting place for information: Chicago Fair Trade

Also – check out this:  The Seeds of Change Marketplace!