No two days are ever the same as a teaching artist. Some days I roll on the floor singing about animals with preschoolers, and some days I have real conversations about life and college with high schoolers. I might teach on the west side, north side, and south side in one day, eating meals in my car in between. I lesson plan in that car, in the kitchen, and from Dunkin Donuts locations citywide, keeping the choreography for over twenty dances in my head at any one time.
But what rewards the constant movement, constant change, constant unpredictability of this lifestyle? The opportunity to build constant relationships with students over time-- to see them grow, create, and thrive.
I’ve gotten just that chance this year by teaching at Daniel Webster Academy with CDE, where I’ve been with two classes every week for the full school year. In the fall, the kindergarten class did a fun matador-themed dance to paso doble music from Spain, learning to say “Ole!” and play imaginary castanets while marching to the beat. Their performance at the school’s Christmas assembly was a huge hit. This spring, we’ve been putting on our cowboy and cowgirl boots to dance to Mexican tribal guarachero music. All the while, we have explored the brain dance, a developmentally appropriate warm up that goes through natural patterns of body movement, and fun games exploring dance concepts like space, level, speed, and direction.
The journey hasn’t been without bumps. The students face a number of challenges, emotional and interpersonal, and it can be hard for them to leave the outside world at the classroom door. But I absolutely live for the days when a normally unfocused student suddenly dances for the entire class, or the day a new activity I’m trying out strikes a chord and the whole room is full of positive, creative energy. Last week, I tried out some new classroom management tactics with striking results, and my assistant teacher and I left class feeling happy and accomplished.
We’ll keep building our creative community, riding the ups and downs, playing with ideas and with each other, dancing on until summer.
Susanna Hostetter holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Dance from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, where she was awarded the David Wick Prize for Choreography. Susanna has trained in modern, jazz, and Latin, and studied West African dance forms in Tamale, Ghana. She has led both semester-long residencies and short workshops in over three dozen Chicago Public Schools over the last five years through Chicago's finest dance education organizations. In addition to her work with students as a Teaching Artist, Susanna is a PomSquad Fitness instructor and member of Desueño Dance Company. It is her joy to spread a love for movement within the city!