It all began with a misunderstanding. Or perhaps mistranslation is more apt.
What she said was, “You can’t dance in the cafeteria. You can dance at recess.”
What they heard, in the mysterious, marvelous alchemy of first and second grade brains, was “Dance off at recess tomorrow!”
But it didn’t end there, because the teacher, a truly wonderful creature, decided to go for it. She later mentioned the impending dance-off to a colleague, a seventh grade teacher, who announced, “I’m in!” and who then raised the stakes by adding, “And I’m doing the worm!” This, of course, guaranteed a seventh grade audience.
The next morning the aforementioned wonderful teacher stationed herself in the hallway, and as the first and second graders filed past, she proclaimed: “Remember! Dance off at recess!”
Of course, I knew none of this as we headed out to recess on Friday. I’d heard a few murmurs about dancing from students as they entered the classroom, but figured they had their own plans for recess. And they did. They just weren’t what I imagined.
When the seventh graders all filed out the door to the playground ahead of my class, I wondered about it. This was not their recess time. I shrugged it off as tired teachers in May + sunny Friday = extra recess. But they didn’t disperse in the typical seventh-grade fashion. Instead, they moved en masse to line up at the edge of the soccer field. Most of the first and second graders headed that way as well.
I tried to see over the wall of seventh grade backs.
What was going on?
I walked to the edge of the field, keeping half an eye on the kids who were on the playground. After all, I was supposed to be on recess duty.
“What’s up?” I asked another teacher.
As she turned to fill me in, music filled the air and we both turned back to the field to look. The kids, and quite a few teachers, had suddenly launched into dance moves all over the soccer field. Arms and legs were flying. Everyone was smiling. I saw some unexpected faces and realized that the resource room teachers had come out to join in the fun, bringing their students along. Teachers and students from across the school laughed and danced together. Cheering erupted as the seventh grade teacher demonstrated her surprising aptitude for “The Worm”. Not to be outdone, several younger students joined in, bucking and squirming across the tender May grass.
Some kids were marvels of coordinated movement and rhythm, and others were whirling dervishes of chaos. I watched several students, whom I knew carried heavy burdens, embrace the magic of the moment, dancing as if they didn’t have a care in the world, their faces radiant. It was all quite wonderful.
For the next twenty minutes, I semi-fulfilled my recess duty responsibilities, while watching kids and teachers, dance, dance, dance. The music, impeccably planned, stopped just when it was time to blow the whistle. As we all headed toward the building, comments floated in the air.
“Did you see my moves?”
“We should do that every day!”
“That was SO.MUCH. FUN!”
It really was fun, but it was so much more than that as well.
I may have pieced together some of the timeline and events inaccurately, and I can’t begin to tell you what music was playing, but I can tell you, I’ll never forget that moment. For twenty minutes, the sun was shining, and there was laughter and music. And within me swelled a sort of fierce joy and a burning determination to nurture and protect these shining little humans and all the good things that happen at school.
It was joyful, uplifting and, quite simply, amazing.