All it Takes is a Tutu and Some Focus


It’s been a month since I realized that my 2014-2015 school year was going to throw me for loops, spins, twists and twirls.  And while I am by no means a self-proclaimed ballerina; I’m smiling, pointing my toes, and pirouetting with the best of ’em.  Because when the music starts the core needs to be strong, the back straight, muscles tight, and breath steady.

As I stretch daily, as all practicing and proficient ballerinas do, I prepare to move in ways that are brand new; ways in which I never thought my body knew how to.  Legs outstretched, arms over extended, and of course…hair tightly wrapped in a bun – not one hair out of place.  Grace and elegance: the aspiration of all ballerinas.

Ballerinas and educators.

And while ballerinas make their every move seem effortless, the reality is that every motion is executed with deep thought and delivered with exact precision.  The bar is set wildly high and only the best of the best can gently thrust their leg onto that bar as fingertips reach for and surpass beautifully pointed toes while bodies align with a diagonally extended leg.

But, what about the ballerinas who approach the bar with a “Hrmph!” and a stubborn knee that won’t align with the rest of the leg and an unmaintained balance as a ‘steady’ foot is anything but?  And that sleek bun?  That bun has come undone and wisps of hair are continually getting caught on eye lashes and tickling cheekbones refusing to cooperate.  And no, you cannot move your hands from First Position for a moment’s reprieve.


When we continue to throw on our tutus and ballet slippers and head straight into the studio before the sun has risen from its slumber: We are not giving up.  We are wrapping our bruised and bleeding toes accompanied by “Ouch!” and “Arghh!” but, we are not giving up.  We are placing even more bobby pins in our hair in hopes that today will be the day we are not tempted to twitch out of First Position.  Today, we stretch just a wee bit further in reaching for our little nubby toes.

As we wiggle and wobble…biting our lower lip oblivious to this false stability…we realize that our calloused hands are resting on those little nubs we’ve so desperately been trying to reach for weeks.  Yes, we are now touching our toes.  Wait.  What?  We did it?

I want to show you something.

Amazing isn’t it?  A young man in my Social Justice and Student Voice course was not willing to explore his 35-60 word biography (modeled after Visa Go World commercials) as it applied to his life.  But, he was willing to explore a puzzling injustice that he firmly believes has a feasible solution.  And his questions.  I could most definitely learn how to shape Essential Questions by conversing with this young man.

I’m still aiming for balance.

My knees are still a little bent.  My tutu is sometimes on backwards.  But, there’s hope!  While the majority of students were actively engaged in chronicling a moment in their lives, one student decided he needed to do things his way: focused, dedicated, and with a little pizzazz.  Is that not what the art of ballet truly encompasses?

As I continue to learn the intricacies of this art form, I take pleasure in exposing students to it as well.  We dance together…sometimes in beautiful unison and well, let’s face it, other times as if we’re all petit sauting to a different tune.  That day, this tenacious student decided to wear sneakers to ballet practice.  And, I’m so glad he did.










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One thought on “All it Takes is a Tutu and Some Focus

  1. Kimberly L. October 8, 2014 at 11:40 am Reply

    Thank you for writing about the art of teaching. We often see the ugly in the missteps in the dance. Here we see the opposite. Real beauty came when the student literally found another way to speak his truth. Thank you for sharing and taking us on the dance with you!



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