Categotry Archives: Other

The TRS Teachers

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It’s February and this month our social media is all about loving dance. As well as dance, we also love our team here at The Right Step. I’m very lucky to work with such a fantastic group of people who are all passionate about dance. It’s not just their passion that makes them so brilliant though. In this blog post I’m going to talk about the things I love about them.
 
Queue the gushing blog post!

Enthusiasm

They have a passion for what they do and have worked very hard to get where they are. They couldn’t do this job if it didn’t excite them.

Teamwork

This is my favourite thing about TRS and it definitely makes the company special. Together we can do far more than an individual. The TRS Teachers share knowledge, like when Alice talked about phonics at The All Hands Meeting or when Steph mentors fellow staff members in her role as Level 3 TRS Teacher. They are there for each other on difficult occasions such as when we did a memory walk for Rose and they let each other know when they’ve done well such as when they nominate each other for Spot Awards.

Pride

We call special things that happen in class, Magic Moments and when I look back on them I can see how proud the TRS Teachers are of their work. I will always remember how proud Shanice was when she came away from her first ever taster at Friston House Care Home. I was there to support as it was her first, but she didn’t need it. The class was spectacular and I awarded her a Spot Award too. 

Happiness

The team love what they do and take the opportunity bring happiness to people who might not have much. We do have one team member who stands out as the bringer of  happiness though… Becca T’s happiness is contagious. She such a kind and sweet person, it rubs off on everyone whenever we see her!

Drive

They go above and beyond! For example, Steph initiated a video performance for the dancers at Byron Primary because their class was during the day. She edited it together and even wrote a blog post. It’s this kind of things that reassures me that the TRS Teachers are doing their best for the participants in class.

Commitment

I’ve noticed recently that TRS Teachers either come for a year and then change career or stay forever. Georgia has been working for TRS for 6 years and has been working in the office for just as many. Alix is the longest serving TRS Teacher. She’s been here since leaving University, that’s 8 years! Their commitment means that we don’t let down the people we work with and the participants get to keep the dance teacher they know and love.

Patience

Although we love what we do, it does require patience for many reasons. The TRS Teachers have oodels of patience with participants, each other and with me (when I disapear off to have a baby and then zoom back in with lots of ideas)! In Active Armchairs Facilitator Training, we talk about patience and Georgia leads a few practical exercises as well. It’s a great thing to practice because practice helps us to be mindful and truly present in the situation. 
 
This blog has been one of the quickest I’ve ever written. I have used 7 words to describe the TRS Teachers already and I’ve been writing for 12 minutes whilst waiting for Georgia’s post (insight into our busy lives!) I will stop there, but I could go on and on!
 
Happy Valentine’s to the TRS Teachers x

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Valentines Dance Props

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Georgie set my daughter and I a challenge this month…

Make some Valentine’s Day themed dance props! We had a lovely time making them and playing with them since. I’m not going to tell you how to make these things as there are lots of tutorials online about that already, but I would like to share some thoughts and ideas about what we did. 

 

 

Sensory Bottles

  • This is a fantastically versatile prop. You can change the size (imagine a massive one for team work!), the shape (small hand held ones for dancing with), the content and the colour (red gel food colouring was pretty) so they could fit almost any theme. 
  • These are a wonderful thing for Active Armchairs. For all the reasons they are good for sensory stimulation, but also because they are unusual, not patronising (providing the contents is appropriate) and they brighten up the room. 
  • We only had jars for this, but I do think plastic screw top bottles are better. The jars look very pretty, but they are a little heavy and might break if dropped. 
  • When making them hand eye co-ordination and fine motor skills were developing. 
  • You can dance with them, copy them or move after them as they roll away.
  • Play a version of eye spy and use the things in the bottle as inspiration for choreography. 

Hearts for Hopping!

  • I used an A4 bit of card and let Tiny One choose how to decorate them. We used crayons, stickers and paint. We could have made smaller ones and turned them into wands! 
  • They are also very versatile as shape, size, colour, decoration etc. can be changed. 
  • The texture of the puffy stickers is a nice addition to the game. Other textures could be used as well. 
  • They could also be used for aiming or landing pads and this would be fun for Active Armchairs
  • This would be a lovely thing for a cross-curricular approach. Each child in the class could make their own and they can bring them to dance as a magic spot or as part of a larger thing such as a long snake of hopping stones.

I enjoyed this challenge so if you have one to set us please get in contact and we’ll see what we can make! 

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2018 Roundup

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We have been busy bees in the office in the run up to Christmas. As well as celebrations taking place, we’ve had newsletters and Christmas cards to design, print and send. We’re feeling very Christmassy already and can’t wait for Christmas jumper day on Monday (look out for the photos!)

Our newsletter has been going out in all of our classes recently and is also found in the many Christmas cards that Becca and I sent on Monday. We hope everyone who has had the chance has enjoyed reading it, but I’m sure there are others out there who don’t have one so… we have included a copy below for everyone can have a read. Enjoy! Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!

 

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A Year in The Life

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Steph, Level Three TRS Teacher, Level Two Active Armchairs Facilitator and Educating Dance Teacher (what a mouthful, she’s reached the highest levels possible at TRS!) was voted TRS Teacher of the year 2017 by TRS staff in November last year. As we are coming up to this year’s vote I asked her to write about her year and I’m pleased to say it’s really varied and has been very exciting!

This is how young dancers in Steph’s classes put their hand up to talk… in any funky position!

A Year in The Life of Steph…

One of my favourite things about my work with The Right Step Dance Company is the variety it brings each day. The past year has been no exception to this. Teaching all over Kent and Medway, I’ve covered thousands of miles, planned hundreds of classes and had a wonderful time sharing my love of dance and movement with hundreds of class participants for another year. 

Flicking through my diary, I’ve been reminded of some of the new schools and care homes I’ve visited this year amongst my regular classes. I’ve been teaching for The Right Step Dance Company for over 5 years, and whilst there are new classes and ‘one off’ sessions happening all the time, I have some brilliant regular classes too.  One of my longest running classes is the Friday afternoon Dance Club at Byron Primary School. I wrote a blog post (read it HERE) about their Dance club earlier in the year after their fantastic Summer Term. Often we get to see the development and enjoyment children have in their dance classes, but there isn’t always a show or opportunity to share the brilliant work the children have achieved. To overcome this, we decided to film the last class of term so they could share their achievements and experiences. I was so pleased to have been able to put this video together for the Dance Club participants at Byron Primary.

Another filming day, and definite highlight of my year, would have to be the BBC Filming Day at Hale Place Care Home. We were honoured and utterly thrilled to have been asked to be part of the filming as one of the home’s favourite activities. We continually see the positive impacts of Active Armchairs, but when others can really see and feel the benefits of the classes too and wave the Active Armchairs flag of joy it’s a brilliant feeling! Myself and Rebecca had a wonderful morning with the residents and carers, and I think its fair to say we both left that morning with big smiles on our faces!  Hale Place was a relatively new class for me at the time, and has now become one of my regular weekly classes. I have loved getting to know the residents even better over the past year, and look forward to another year of dancing and singing with everyone.

There have been great team moments throughout the year too, with our twice yearly All Hands Meetings and training sessions. We usually find ourselves teaching alone, so having the opportunity to meet with others teachers on the team at All Hands meetings means we can share experiences and advice. It’s also just a lovely opportunity to have a good catch up over a cup of tea and some biscuits!  We often have training within these meetings, and in our most recent one we had a session with confidence coach Andrea Barker.  The session was not only a great team bonding experience, but also enabled us to take strategies away to implement into our practice.  Catch us striking our power pose below!

I really enjoy the opportunity to work with other TRS teachers, and as a Level 3 TRS Teacher, I had the opportunity to mentor one of our newer teachers to the team this year.  When teachers join me in my classes for training, I love to share experiences and tips so it’s been great to be able to focus this into a mentoring process.  I know myself I find it very beneficial to be observed, and to share teaching practices with other teachers, so combing this with my experiences as a freelancer made for a great first mentoring experience.

As I reflect upon the year, It’s very hard to pin point a few favourite moments, as in all honesty every day and every class brings something magic. I mentioned the notion of ‘Magic Moments’ and how we capture them in classes in an All Hands meeting a few years ago and it has since become a wonderful way to share these little snippets of joy with everyone.  There are plenty of Magic Moment quotes to be found on TRS social media; Whether it’s a comment about the participants class experience, a child that expresses their enjoyment and pride at learning a new dance step, the older adult that taps along to the music for the first time or feedback from a teacher/carer about how a participants response is a breakthrough….we are so lucky to be a part of so much magical! Here are two of my most recent Magic Moments. 

“Year 5 at Singlewell Primary School have been learning Bhangra Dance this term and will be showing some of their moves in their assembly this week. They were looking fantastic in their dance class earlier in the week and we can’t wait to hear how it went!”
Steph

“Singing in the rain is my tune of the day today!! We had a great sing along at Fort Horsted and reminisced about the great Gene Kelly and his wonderful dancing in the rain and swinging around the lamppost!”
Steph

As the final school term of the year approaches, and I begin to think about Christmas classes and plans for the new terms in 2019 (!) I find myself feeling very grateful for having another great year of classes and experiences with the Company.  This year especially seems to have flown by…but maybe that’s because I’ve just been having too much fun dancing!

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The Value of Arts

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On Thursday 22nd February artists and interested people gathered to contemplate the value of art and to share their experiences. I went along to not only provide a workshop about Active Armchairs, but to also discover what other artists have been up to in Medway and Kent.

Valuing Art & Culture in Medway and Kent was organised by Laura King of Look Kloser and Luci Napleton from Medway Council after Laura shared her idea for a day to encourage collaboration. It all began with a chat at Medway Dance Network and snowballed from there.

I took part in Laura’s workshop where she told us how all of her sessions are open for anyone, no matter what and reminded us of the importance of pausing for participants. Georgia Smith, representing Loop Dance Company (yes, she’s also a TRS Teacher and our Adult Dance Co-ordinator, she wears many hats!), share her ideas for a cohesive approach to a dance class for children. We discussed the difference between creative dance and cross-curricular dance and came to the conclusion that it’s like a Hoover… all cross-curricular dance is creative, but not all creative dance is cross-curricular. Luci shared her experiences with EDNA and we were treated to the rare opportunity to relax and gather our thoughts.

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Everyone in the room is part of Active Armchairs. When family, friends and carers are present we can facilitate special moments for them.

Lastly was my workshop about Active Armchairs. My aim was to give everyone a flavour of what Active Armchairs is, to talk about the importance of choice and to inspire everyone with some Magic Moments. Luckily I was joined by fellow Active Armchairs facilitator, Georgie, who was able to share her favourite moments as well.

The day was a great reminder that there is a wealth of dance expertise out there. Although we do a lot of skills sharing at The Right Step, CPD and sharing is with other is always good for the soul!

In the evening we went to the hall, still at Woodlands Arts Centre, where there were tables and a big screen. Guests arrived and speakers shared their stories of collaboration. There was a great mix of people from various organisations and the general idea was to find a way to collaborate and make art happen.

Speakers were asked what they think is the value of arts and I think the resulting list is all true…

  • A sense of purpose and achievement
  • Prevents social isolation
  • Self worth
  • Opportunity for learning
  • A feeling of belonging

I know I found some opportunities for collaboration and I’m sure others there did too. I had a day of contemplation and came away buoyant.

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Pound Shop Christmas Props

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Why we love the pound shop!
by Clare Wilders, Level Two TRS Teacher and Level Two Active Armchairs Facilitator.

As dance teachers we are always looking for innovative ways to spice up our dance classes. From using YouTube videos to show a piece of choreography, pictures so children can visualise the theme of our class, to props to give the actual dance element of the class more impact. In fact in our Active Armchairs classes, a prop is a compulsory element to the class, bringing an added element of interaction and assisting older people in maintaining their dexterity.

In an ideal world we would have an unlimited budget to use for our props, however as self employed teachers, we have books to balance, so a little creativity goes a long way.

Many an hour can be whiled away shuffling through bargains in the toy department, or as I was this morning, wandering up and down the Christmas aisle of the pound shop looking for potential Christmas props for my Active Armchairs classes next week.

I found some items with potential. I nearly bought a whole bundle of Christmassy cat teasers… with feathers, santas and little bells on each, only to find that they tangled up really easily just hanging up. Imagine the delay to my class trying to drag them out of my dance bag after they had turned into the inevitable spaghetti of strings and santas!

Finally I settled on a few random items showing potential:

In previous classes I have borrowed the TRS “Jingle sticks” with great success, and these are inspired by those, but a little different. Using a pool noodle, we could have a softer “stick” element so they could easily be patted against a hand or leg.

So far so good:

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I also found some wreath hangers that bore great gold bells… so of course the Cat got little curious:

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Things were looking jingly. A touch of gift ribbon, and the results are below. I can’t wait to try them out to “Jingle Bells” next week.

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Phonics at All Hands

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On Monday we had our All Hands Meeting. We have one every six months and it’s a chance for the team to get together, find out what’s been happening in the company and to plan for its future. Each time we try to have something a bit extra and this time we learnt a bit about phonics!

TRS Teacher Alice used to work as a teaching assistant and in her role at school she learnt a lot about phonics. She was kind enough to share a little of this knowledge so that we could get some insight into what the children learn in class. The Educating Dance teachers (the TRS Teachers training in the TRS cross-curricular approach) also gained some ideas for their classes.

Phonics is an approach used by primary school teachers to teach reading and spelling. Pupils learn sounds of letters and groups of letters and are able to break words down so that they can work out how to write/read the words themselves. They learn quickly and gain independence. When I saw Alice using phonics in her dance cllettersoundsass I thought it would be an excellent thing to share with the TRS Teachers. A chance for them to enhance pupils learning and make their classes flow well with what the dancers are already doing in school.

Alice shared the phonics sounds with us first (some are listed on the left). There are lots to learn. Not just the letters of the alphabet, but also the sounds as letters join together to create phonemes. It surprised the TRS Teachers that children learn so much in the process of learning to write and read. It works though!

20160229_133933Next we thought of some ideas for using phonics in class. Things like warm ups that involve phonemes that sound almost the same such as i, ie, igh etc. Perhaps the teacher could give a word containing one of these and the dancers could move to the space that represents the correct one. When we introduce keywords in cross-curricular dance we can now spell them out in a way that dancers will most relate to. Choreography often comes up in class and confuses everyone! This might make things easier. We also talked about the benefits of using phonics in our English cross-curricular classes such as Extended Sentences or during Book Week (the photo shows a BFG workshop during Book Week 2016).

We were left with many ideas and some new knowledge to put into practice! Thank you Alice for sharing. I look forward to the results.

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Hand Made Props

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IMAG6836Props add value to our dance classes. They make our classes colourful, more exciting, noisy… The list goes on. They can be used with people of all ages and abilities and props can help TRS Teachers adapt dances to the needs of the class.

The Right Step has a collection of props available for the TRS Teachers to borrow, but some of the best props are the ones the TRS Teachers have made themselves. I’ve collected a few of the teacher’s ideas here…

“Well that brightened up our morning” Joan, a participant at Rochester Care Home, December 2015

Stretchy Strips and Flying Fish
The Active Armchairs facilitators know all about Clare’s stretchy strips. Made from bits of trousers, they are used like ribbons, but they are stretchy. She also cut up squares of colourful material to make ‘fish’. By far some of the most colourful props, they are also great for the imagination.

IMGP9500The River
I made this prop a long time ago for Changes in The Current, a FUSE Festival commission, but it’s still going strong. Sophie found lots of blue material. I cut it up and sewed it together to make a 3m by 1m piece of material. There was blue thread all over the house while I was making it, but it was worth it. It still gets used even now. Steph took it to her Kensuke’s Kingdom workshop and used it as the sea at St Andrew’s Primary a few weeks ago.

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Tights
Technically not made, but definitely re purposed… Sophie brought the tights to our Active Armchairs sharing day and we a great time. It felt silly and fun and brought lots of colour to the room. Thankfully we were using the office after hours so the other office users didn’t wonder what was going on. Cheap and fun, key when making your own props.

 

20160105_124644Tights also came up quite a long time ago, I’d had an idea after the edna project and working with Wendy Daws. They still don’t have a name, but the other facilitators helped me make them. Rings, circles, tights things, shadow makers. Who knows what they should be called!

 

Stephs EggsSteph’s Eggs
These are one of Steph’s favourite props. Really versatile and friendly to all different types of hands. Steph filled the eggs with rice and stuck colourful tap around to keep them together. They’re great for rhythms in a sound themed cross-curricular class or at Active Armchairs to give those who don’t want to dance something to do.

 

Sticks
I spent a lot of time and great care making my sticks! I wanted them to be smooth so that they didn’t hurt people and I wanted them to be versatile so that I could use them with various things. Some of the participants in my Active Armchairs classes, particularly the men, like to hear about how they were made and then talk about the things they’ve made in the past.

“We had a really in depth study of the care you had taken to make your jingle sticks at Montgomery Court the other week! They were all very impressed with the fact that there were no snags and that the bells had been carefully tied on with elastic, so that they could be removed if needed. Your ears must have been burning! In a good way :D” Clare, TRS Teacher

How were they made? I got some dowel, cut it into lengths, spent a long time sanding them down individually, washed them, varnished them (twice!) and then tie ribbons or bells to them. They are great for rhythms in Sound themed classes or as Jingle bells at Christmas!

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Ribbon Sticks
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Sensory Sticks cropped

Georgia made her Sensory Stick props so that they were all different. Each one contains a garden stick and is covered in cotton wool and material, but they have their own personalities! One has buttons, one is furry, one has bells and one has plastic underneath the material so that it crunches!

 

That was just a small selection of the home made props. There are many more!

 

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Props In The Car!

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By Steph Vezmar, Schools Dance Co-ordinator, Level Two TRS Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator

An insight into what you can find in a TRS teachers car

‘I had tinsel in the back of my car for all of December, I’m sure people thought I’d decorated the car for Christmas!’ Rebecca Ashton, Programme Director

It occurred to me recently that every time I offered someone a lift in my car, I was actually asking them to subconsciously take part in one of my dance sessions.  To give you an idea of what you are likely to face if you travel in the back of one of the TRS teachers cars, you will probably intertwine yourself with a few hula hoops (eager passengers have even have a go at hula hooping before getting in!), you’ll need to put the giant teddy bear on your lap in an effort not to squish him, you can rest your feet on the pile of bean bags in the footwell and if you are chilly then you can wrap yourself up in some of the soft ‘liquid gold’ material.  Whilst you are surrounded by various props and teaching aids, you can also enjoy the ever changing music that may pop up on the iPod shuffle, it could be anything from Glenn Miller to One Direction, to Nursery Rhymes….you name it, we have taught a dance to it!

 

‘Folders, scarfs, parachutes, hula hoops you name it I had it in my boot and the back of my car’ Alix Godden, TRS Teacher

 

So why are these props invaluable to our classes? Regardless of age, props are an exciting addition to a dance class, particularly during creative sessions.  Props bring colour and new dynamics to a session and help to encourage participants to move in a different way.  In Active Armchairs classes I often use feathers for creative tasks and many participants find the colours and texture brings a new element to their dance experience.

 

‘I love the feathers.  I love their colours and the challenge of trying to lift them high so they can float down to the floor.’ Active Armchairs Class Participant 2016

 

Stephs PropsThere is no better place to store our teaching aids than in our cars.  Only last week I was called upon to cover an Active Armchairs session last minute due to sickness, having been teaching in a primary school I wasn’t prepared for this.  However, with my office (my car!) nearby I knew I had all the teaching aids I needed to adapt quickly!  Our cars are our office.  They get us from A to B…and then onto C, D and E throughout the day.  Without time to pop home to grab props for the next class, everything we could possibly need to teach ages 2 to 102 are at our disposal.   Many of the TRS teachers are always on the go, replying to emails and eating lunch whilst parked outside the next venue…a mobile office!

All in the name of dance!

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Christmas Newsletter 2015!

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We’ve had a fantastic year and couldn’t fit it all in, but we’ve had a good go. So here’s our Christmas newsletter! Try Ctrl scroll to be able to read it better. If that doesn’t work we’re happy to email or post you a copy.

Christmas Newsletter 2015

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