Memo to: All St. Theresa Faculty and Staff


From: Ken Westgate, Media Specialist

Date: Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Subject: The Technology Dance Part 2 — Latin Passion

Well here we are at the end of the school year, and I wanted to say that I was delighted to see how many of you embraced the dance this year and added new technology skills and used the technology to enhance your instruction with the students. As a dance instructor, I admit I was not very consistent in helping you learn more about our technology resources, but I hope I was at least able to support you in your efforts. In an effort to further encourage you and to help you think about planning technology integration for next school year, I would like to share a bit more of my dance experience as we move into our summer break.

In sixth grade, I was making an adjustment to my first full year in a new school. I had stumbled through the end of my fifth-grade year in my new school but barely had time to meet any of my classmates before the year ended. Unfortunately, in my new neighborhood, there were no children my age, only high school students so making friends was nearly impossible. I spent most of that summer reading books and playing basketball with my younger brother who had finished third grade. In sixth grade, I ended up in a class with a lot of students I hadn’t even seen the year before, but I seemed to fit in fairly well with this group and soon made a number of new friends. To my surprise I recognized one of my classmates from my new church youth group; her name was Jane. I had also met her older brother, John, in Boy Scouts. I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to Jane, but for some reason, girls seemed a bit more interesting in sixth grade then they did in fifth. At first, I admit I wasn’t too terribly interested. I attribute my change in attitude to something that changed in dance class.

Up to this point, I had learned the technique of dancing a number of formal steps like the “Foxtrot”, “Waltz”, “Quick-step”, and “Jitterbug”. I was able to do these steps fairly easily and was feeling slightly more comfortable with the whole idea of dance class, not thrilled mind you, but a bit more relaxed. One thing I definitely had not experienced was any real emotion or passion in dancing. Now you might ask, why would that concern a sixth grader. Actually, it wouldn’t have, except that in dance class that year we switched to Latin dance steps.
Now it was the “tango”, “rumba”, “samba”, and “Cha Cha Cha.” You can’t dance those steps without getting a feel for the emotion in the dance. That helps you develop the rhythm and timing. Sixth-grade boys are not the most passionate people in the world, so it took an eighth-grade girl to sort of ignite that in me. My eighth-grade dance partner for much of that year was a dark haired Jewish girl named Ellen, who for some reason had taken a liking to me the year before even though I had probably only danced with her a few times. Why a sixth grader with an eighth grader you might ask.

Well, I had a sudden growth spurt at the end of 5th grade and was now five feet eight inches tall and a whopping 115 lbs. I think I must have looked like a giant walking stick to most of my classmates. Ellen was just five feet two inches tall, but definitely, a lot more physically mature than most of the girls in my sixth-grade class. Miss Mac had a habit of pairing dance partners so that most of the time the boys were definitely taller than their dance partner, so Ellen was Miss Mac’s choice to partner with me that year. I hadn’t really noticed Ellen before, but for some reason this year she seemed very different. I first noticed the difference while learning the tango. I hadn’t really seen a girl move like that before. Hips moving in rhythm to the music, feet gliding across the floor so effortlessly, her dark mysterious eyes fixed on mine. Unnerving and disorienting were my first feelings.

However, the click of our dance instructor, Miss Mac’s, castanets drew me back into reality since I obviously wasn’t getting into the mood of what was going on. I remember Miss Mac putting her hands firmly on my shoulders looking me straight in the eyes with her piercing scowl of disapproval and actually demanding I relax and let Ellen help me feel the dance. She obviously thought Ellen was a far better dancer than I was, Ellen certainly was, having attended these classes for two more years than I had at this point. Ellen smiled very approvingly at Miss Mac’s instructions. Not wishing to draw further attention to myself in front of the other eighty some of my fellow classmates, I did my best to focus on what Ellen was doing and see if I could somehow get the hang of it.

Ellen was a very focused person on the dance floor and since we weren’t allowed to talk she simply moved to the rhythm of the dance and kind of drug me around with her for the first four or five Latin dance classes. By late October I was finally catching on and trying to move my gangly frame in rhythm to the music and was actually doing some leading of my own. Ellen actually seemed to approve of this although it was very hard to tell since most of the time she simply kept smiling at me and staring straight into my eyes the whole time we danced. For some reason early in November just before our fall dance recital in front of our parents, I noticed a kind of sparkle in Ellen’s eyes and I also began to feel a little excitement in the way she moved around the dance floor and how much she seemed to be enjoying these Latin steps. Sixth-grade boys typically aren’t that responsive to older girls, but for some reason, she was the kind of person on the dance floor that kind of just seemed to exude passion. Off the dance floor, she would talk my ear off non-stop in the break room. I did my best just to sip my coke and nod politely every few minutes just to make it appear as if I were listening. I wanted to be sitting with the guys I knew, but she would always conveniently park herself next to me on the benches in the break room. If I got up and moved she followed me to wherever I went, so by the end of September that year I had given up on the idea of sitting with the guys and endured her constant chatter during the break. I was relieved when we had to return to the dance floor where Miss Mack’s instructions on no talking while dancing was strictly enforced.

At the dance recital that Fall, Ellen and I were scheduled to dance in the tango group. I liked that dance and its kind of back and forth tug of war motions. I was very nervous as usual performing before a packed house of beaming parents. They sat in a balcony above the dance floor and one of our favorite tricks among the boys was to try and dance under the balcony area so that our parents really couldn’t see us. Ellen definitely had other ideas as she grabbed my hand when it was our turn to dance and marched me down to the far end of the dance floor all the way to the stage where the music ensemble was sitting. There was no way I was going to make it to the balcony during this recital. Once I realized my fate was sealed, I kind of forgot my embarrassment and simply relaxed and enjoyed the dance. The more Ellen got into the dance, the more I seemed to be able to relax and enjoy not only the dance but also enjoy her.

She was dressed in a very stunning gown that night. One with a definite Latin look and one that was a tad more revealing than a sixth-grade boy should be exposed to at that age. I really hadn’t noticed before we got on the dance floor because most of the girls were wearing shoulder wraps because of the chilly conditions outside. But when the wrap came off that was a different story. Well after the dance was over. I actually found myself listening to Ellen in the break room. I actually couldn’t seem to take my eyes off of her. Again, very unnerving and unsettling for a sixth-grade boy, but that’s when I first realized what Miss Mack was getting at when she spoke about “passion” and the dance. I was stunned, suddenly girls didn’t seem to be all that bad to look at, and maybe even talk with once in a while. Maybe I could even hang out with them and play kickball with them in the schoolyard, or climb the jungle gym with them. Maybe there was something interesting and fascinating about girls after all.

Well to jump ahead a bit in my story, I didn’t hook up with Ellen, she didn’t even go to the same school as I did. She was in a Junior High across town, and I never saw her outside of dance class. But Ellen definitely was the one who introduced me to the “passion” of the dance.

Now to jump back to that girl I mentioned in the opening of this story, Jane. While Ellen introduced me to the “passion” of the dance, Jane was the one who brought it out spontaneously in me. For the first half of my sixth grade school year, Jane was just another girl in the class who sat a couple of desks over. I saw her at church on Sundays, and once in a while when I came to visit her older brother, I saw her at home. We didn’t really talk much, a brief hello, and how are you doing was pretty much all we said to one another. I’m pretty sure that it was during one of the practice sessions for our annual church Sunday School Christmas Pagent, that I actually started talking to Jane. I had gotten comfortable with her, and she was actually a very down to earth kind of girl. She was also a bit of a “tomboy” and could climb the jungle gym at school and play kickball with the best of the boys in the class. She was far different than Ellen. Jane was nearly as tall as I was at the time, she had long blond hair and sparkling blue-green eyes. She was very mature physically for a sixth grade girl as well. She had a great sense of humor and laughed easily, but not falsely like some girls may do to get guys to think they are actually interested in them. There was no pretense about Jane, she was straight on with you. If she didn’t like you or something you did, you’d hear about it quickly. If she did like you, she wasn’t shy about that either. I discovered during the course of our Christmas pageant preparations that Jane actually liked me and she was the one who encouraged me to stop by her house and visit with her instead of her brother. I was shocked at that, since Jane was one of the smartest and most popular girls in sixth grade, and I was this tall spindly kid, who often struggled to get by in school. From January through early April I made weekly visits to Jane’s house and got to know her mom very well. Her mom was the first single parent I had ever met, and she was very hard working and very loving with both her children. Jane and her brother John were great supports to her, and I was amazed at how Jane could cook a whole supper without her mom’s help. Our annual Spring formal dance was coming up at the dance school and I had never even thought of asking a girl to go before, but I really liked Jane and I wondered if she would consider going with me. After about three weeks of hemming and hawing I finally got around to asking her to go with me, and she didn’t even hesitate a bit. I almost fainted, but managed to recoup so I didn’t collapse in front of her mother and brother. Jane didn’t talk much about the dance after that, and later I thought I should have talked to her mom first because I know they were struggling to make ends meet and the girls were all required to wear a formal dress to the dance. I finally said something to Jane about it the week before the dance, but she said I shouldn’t worry, she and her mom had sewed a dress for the dance. I knew that several of the girls in the dance classes often had their mom’s make their dresses, so this seemed okay to me.

The big night approached quickly and I was a bundle of nerves. I had never danced with Jane and didn’t even know if she could dance. I had asked my dad to help me pick out a small wrist corsage of flowers and I held the box like it was a 30 carat diamond on my lap as we drove to pick up Jane for the dance. It was a warm May evening and I was wearing my rented tux. That was a requirement for the young men at these formal dances. The tux didn’t fit that well, it kind of hung on me like the skin of a really old penguin. The closer we got to Jane’s house the more nervous I got. I was sweating terribly and worrying that I would just be a sopping wet mess by the time we got there. I got out of the car, struggled to keep my knees from knocking too loudly as I rang the doorbell, and then waited holding my breath. Jane’s brother answered the door and immediately broke into hysterical laughter and rolled on the floor at my appearance. He’d never seen a sixth grader in a tuxedo before. I slid past him as he continued to howl with laughter. Jane’s mother came to see what the commotion was. Upon seeing me, she smiled and tried to stifle her own laughter as she called upstairs for Jane. A few minutes passed, and then down the stairs came this incredibly beautiful young woman who I wasn’t sure I recognized. Her hair was braided and interlaced with small skill flowers. Her dress was a stunning black satin with red trim. It was an incredible full-length evening gown. Jane smiled and then burst into laughter too, over my appearance. By that time, I couldn’t help myself and began to belly laugh as well. After a few minutes we all managed to compose ourselves and I awkwardly offered Jane the wrist corsage I had bought her with my paper route money. She took the box, but then firmly said, “aren’t you supposed to put this on me?”

I was trembling with fear as I reached into the box, gently took out the corsage and then slipped the elastic band over her wrist. She looked at it admiringly and then kissed her mom and grabbed my arm and headed us out the door.

When we arrived at the dance, I was even more nervous. I kept thinking about the fact that I had never danced with Jane. I was terrified that she didn’t know how to dance at all and I’d look stupid on the dance floor in front of all the parents who would be watching from the balcony. As we slipped into the main lobby area, I pulled her gently to the side and asked her the question I had been dreading. “Do you know how to dance?”, I asked. “Of course, I know how to dance…Do you think I’d let you bring me to one of these things and make me look like a jerk?” “Just relax, lets have some fun”, she added. I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant by that, but I decided to try it her way. She was the kind of girl that didn’t give you much latitude about that anyway. Jane was by far the most stunning young woman on the dance floor that night. She was actually a very good dancer. She didn’t know all the steps we had learned, but she was able to do a very nice waltz and foxtrot, as well as a great jitterbug, and tango. She was thoroughly into it and kept smiling at me the whole time. She was so into it, that I relaxed and began to enjoy the dance and her company a whole lot. She was a powerhouse of energy and passion. Not only did she rival Ellen’s dance floor passion, for me she exceeded it. I was totally captivated. Judging from the glances I got from the older boys in the room, so were they. When we would take a break between dances she’d walk to the girls side of the dance floor and park herself down anywhere she pleased. The other girls seemed to know instinctively that she was not someone to be messed with. All that is except for my dance partner Ellen. Ellen had apparently been watching the interaction between the two of us, and wasn’t pleased. I didn’t realize this at first, but did see Ellen approach her and speak to Jane twice in between dances. I didn’t really think anything of it, until we went to the break room. Ellen had apparently said something to Jane just before we got down into the break room and when we did Jane let her have it. Not only did she verbally attack Ellen, but she gave her a good shove that sent Ellen crashing to the floor. Ellen seemed totally shocked and just sat their for a few minutes as some of her friends hovered around her to make sure she was okay. Jane just came over to where I was standing and said, “Can we go now?” Can we go? Go where? I couldn’t drive. Where was I going to take her? How was I going to get her there? Jane yanked on my arm and started back up the stairs to the main lobby. When we got there she spotted my parents and headed straight for them. “I’d like to go home now”, she said. “Is there something wrong dear?”, my mother queried. “Yeah, that little bitch, has been bugging me all night and I just can’t take it any more?” My jaw dropped to the floor, I think my parent’s did too. My mother feigned that she didn’t hear quite right and said, “What seems to be the problem dear?”. “I said that little bitch keeps bugging me and I don’t want to go back out on the dance floor and have to put up with her, so I want to go home now?” This time my mother just looked at my dad, and they both sort of looked at me. My father very calmly said, “I’ll go get the car.” Jane, my mother, and I walked quickly to the door and exited before my mother could be further embarrassed by another of Jane’s frank explicative. We all got into the car in silence. The drive back to Jane’s was done in complete silence. I had no clue what to say, and obviously no one else did either. When we arrived at Jane’s house, I opened the car door for her and walked her up to the house. When we got to the door, she stopped and turned. “I’m sorry, I lost my temper, but she just kept telling me to keep my hands off her dance partner. I told her you were my boyfriend and she should mind her own business.” “She wouldn’t let up so I had to do something. I should have just decked her and been done with it.” I didn’t say anything, I was still trying to process the thing about being her “boyfriend” let alone considering the scenario if Jane had really decked Ellen in the Women’s Club. My mother would have died of embarrassment. Maybe I actually would have been allowed to quit dance classes. Jane started to turn for the door again, but stopped, turned toward me, walked over to where I stood, put her arms around me and gave me a kiss, right on the lips. I couldn’t move. My feet felt like they were permanently cemented to the porch. I didn’t know what to do. I had never been kissed by anyone other than my mother or sisters. Jane just smiled, said thanks for tonight, and walked into her house. I reached up gingerly and touched my lips where she had kissed them.

My heart was beating so fast I thought it would explode. I didn’t even think about what my mom and dad must be thinking back there in the car. I’d never been so excited and exhilarated in my short life. So this was the “passion” of the dance. Wow, maybe I just needed someone with Jane’s fire to spark it in me. She sure had some kind of fire alright, I think my temperature must have gone up a couple of degrees and stayed there the rest of the night. That’s all I could think about for the next couple of days. When I went back to school I’d blush every time I even looked at Jane. She would just smile and give a little wave and hold hands with me as we walked home from school together for the rest of the school year.

Funny thing is, when school ended that year, I never saw Jane again until the night of my high school graduation. Jane and her family moved just a week after school let out and I never knew where she moved. Her mom had an unlisted phone number. The night of my high school graduation, I felt a tap on my shoulder as I was leaving the gymnasium and there stood Jane as beautiful as ever. “Hey, where have you been?” she asked. “Where have you been?”, I replied.
“I’ve been at this school the last three years and I guess you have too, why haven’t you looked me up?” she asked. ” Looked you up, I thought you had moved out of town. Don’t forget there are 900 students in our graduating class, and I’ve only seen about 250 of them in the past three years.” She laughed. “Me too”. We hugged, she gave me a kiss on the cheek, and we parted as my parents and her mom came to pick us up. I never saw Jane again, but that peck on the cheek that night ignited the same fire that one of the lips six years before had. Jane had passion, and she knew how to get it going in me.

Now that my tale has ended you are probably really curious about what this has to do with technology; that is, if you have even read this far. Well here is how it relates:
1. Unless you get passionate about using technology it will become just another used pencil in your pencil cup. It will sit there waiting for you or someone to pick it up, but it will just be sitting in the pencil cup most of the time.
2. Getting passionate about using technology means exploring the different ways it can be used. That means learning different steps. Trying new and exciting ones, ones you never even thought about before. If you just stick with learning one dance step and then sticking with it it becomes stagnant and tired and does not excite you or your students.
3. Getting passionate about technology requires that we feel the rhythm. How can we get into the steps of using it in a way that gives it a more natural feel. Something that gets us up and moving. That may take more training, but that’s what I’m here for.
4. Getting passionate about it, means to learn how it works and how it can work for you. It is like looking in your dance partner’s eyes and seeing not only the ballroom around you, but looking deep enough to see the soul that is driving the dance within her.
5. Finally, getting passionate about it means sharing your ideas with others, so that can get excited and passionate about using it as well. When you discover a new idea for how to use it, or learn something in a seminar or class, share it with others. When you find out about a new WEB resource or some good media tools, let your colleagues know. Sharing keeps the passion burning, and creates a hunger to learn more.

PS. Getting passionate about it doesn’t mean you want to haul off and deck it, although I’m sure that when it isn’t working for you that’s just what you are thinking. Before you do, take a deep breath and give me a call.

So while your off this summer. Think about some of what I’ve said in these last points. I’ll be happy to share my passion for using technology with you. Have a great summer, and see you all next year.

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