Sunday, February 05, 2012

Kids Usually Don't Bite (and Other Lessons Learned While Teaching Zumbatomic)

Well, that was only mildly terrifying. As I mentioned, yesterday was my first Zumbatomic (Zumba for kids) class. The good news: I lived to tell you about it, and I can honestly say it wasn't a complete disaster.

Despite feeling like I wasn't prepared, I went in with a simple strategy: Fake it 'til I make it. I think it worked.

I had nine kids in the class: a four year old, several six and seven year olds, and two nine year olds; and all girls except for one boy (who seemed to love the class). Knowing I had mostly girls, I was expecting a tamer group, ready and willing and attentive. I was wrong. Most of the girls knew each other, which made for a more enthusiastic and energetic dynamic, and a lot of questions and talking that I wasn't expecting. So... pros and cons to that unexpected twist.

Eventually, after decorating nametags and getting everyone into lines, we got started. I did a simple warmup and then a short lesson on cumbia, a style of dance from Colombia, teaching them three basic cumbia moves. Then, on to the first song.

Unlike regular Zumba, where participants follow you as you dance, you're supposed to teach Zumbatomic by breaking down the songs and practicing. I stuck to a maximum of three breakdowns, worried that anything more and I'd lose their attention. It went something like this: break down two to three moves, practice with the music, breakdown next two or three moves, practice with the music, break down last moves, preform the song in its entirety.

While I didn't quite lose them during the breakdowns, I did sense some restlessness by the third time we stopped. From now on, I'm going to stick with two breakdowns. Finally, we got through the song, and--curve ball--all of the students were exhausted and wanted a break.

Because kids are kids and apparently, you can lose their interest pretty fast, the Zumbatomic format includes games. Thinking fast before anyone else asked to sit down and take a break (seriously?), I said "How about we play a game?" Now that was a popular suggestion. On the fly, I went with "Duck, Duck Zumba," where the would-be goose had to do a dance move instead of chase the student. It worked well enough. Before I knew it, there was time for participation prizes (big hit!) and a quick cool down/stretch.

Here were my keys to a non-disastrous Zumbatomic class: First, I had a fairly detailed lesson plan, which I used about half of before I went totally off script. I hadn't really considered that I might need to veer off course, but when I needed to, I threw my best laid plans out the window. Like most things being prepared PLUS being flexible were key to keeping all of the kids at least partially engaged and happy. Second, I showed no fear. Even though I have absolutely no idea how to talk to kids or handle kids or teach kids anything at all, I acted like I did (mostly so the parents wouldn't be all "WTF?"). I think I played the part pretty well.

My biggest issue ended up being the two nine year olds who signed up late. After I had planned for a class of primarily six and seven year olds, I was sent an updated roster a day before the class with the new additions. At that point, though I was pretty sure my material skewed young for them, it was too late to come up a new plan. Sure enough, the nine year olds approached me after class, asking for me to play LMFAO and Rhianna in the next class.

Um... sure not. 

I don't know about you, but I can't think of a Rhianna song that isn't about sex, and LMFAO's Party Rock would be OK, if there wasn't that part about them throwing money at strippers. I'm not scandalized by the fact that these kids listen to this music or anything, but with a row of parents sitting in the room while I teach mainly early elementary school kids a few fun dances, there is no way I'm going to use anything that could be deemed even mildly inappropriate. Sorry kids.

So my game plan for next class is to teach a reggaeton routine, which will (hopefully) satisfy all age groups and throw some Justin Bieber in during the games to keep everyone happy.

Isn't that Justin boy the one the kids all listen to today?

1 comment:

heidikins said...

I know there are Kids versions of many (totally inappropriate for kids) pop songs, the words are changed slightly so it's not all about sex and drugs and throwing money at strippers. Not sure if that helps or makes the whole 9-year-olds-requesting-Rhianna thing more pathetic.

Good luck! Glad your first class went so well!