thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘teen soaps’

Post- “Dance Academy” Reflections on Teaching, from a Former Gymnast

In Dance Academy, gender, Teaching, teen soaps, Television on May 14, 2012 at 10:54 am

Phoebe B.

I am a teacher, and I have just about always known that I wanted to be one. I have selfish reasons aplenty for why I love to teach, and there are just as many political reasons why I think teaching is important. But this post is about more than just my teaching experience or thoughts on teaching, rather it’s about teaching style and the teachers we see represented and reflected in popular culture. That said, my own experiences as a teacher and a student certainly provide the lens through which I understand and negotiate teaching. I am, as described by my students at various points, fun and funny, awkward, difficult and rigorous with high expectations, goofy, helpful, young-seeming, and tough. I’m sure there are many more adjectives that might describe my teaching, from my students’ perspectives or even mine for that matter, but I want to stick, at least for the moment, on the descriptions of difficult, rigorous, and tough.

I grew up doing competitive gymnastics, a sport I began at 3 or 4 and left at 17, right before my junior prom (the prom pictures still reveal quite a few left-over, and impressive, gymnastics muscles). Gymnastics, from the time I was in third grade through the time I left at 17, was my whole life or at least a giant part of it. In that sport, you learn to push yourself all the time. Your harshest critics are your biggest fans, your coaches push you beyond your perceived limits to find new limits, they spot you until they trust you can do it on your own, and they sometimes cause you pain to push you further that you thought possible or even productive. The gym was a space where all the girls on my team both suffered and triumphed together: there were tears, frustrated storming out, yelling, time outs, extra strength exercises because you talked back, and hugs and congratulations when you stuck your landing.

I was never the best gymnast or best gymnastics student, nor was I the best school student. I didn’t stand out a particular amount, but I worked really hard, often surrounded by people that were better than me. This continually pushed me to be better–to be more like them. But the tough coaches were also crucial, although it has taken me quite some years to realize and appreciate this fact. They treated us like family, we were like their kids. When we traveled together, they set our bed times, made sure that we ate enough when we went out to eat, set rules and regulations for acceptable forms of behavior and instilled in us the idea that we were responsible for ourselves, our success, and our failures.

These coaches were, and probably still are, really demanding. But their toughness made me strong and responsible and sometimes even resilient. And I would venture to say that this is true of just about all the gymnastics girls I grew up with. They were the kinds of teachers whose methods I did not always like, but whose lessons have stuck with me. They were the teachers, along with some crucial writing teachers in high school, that influenced my own teaching. They are the teachers that lead my students to label me as tough, rigorous, and demanding. But that rigor, those rules, that discipline, also allowed crucial space for fun, for experimentation, for creativity, and for self-expression.

The Dance Academy crew

This phenomenon, the tough yet caring teacher, is not one I often find reflected in pop culture. But then there was Dance Academy, the marvelous Australian TV show available on Netflix. As GLG co-founder and partner in crime Sarah T. will tell you (she is the one that convinced me to watch it), Dance Academy is amazing. And it is amazing for SO many reasons. But for now I’ll just stick to one, which is the relationship between students and teachers at the Australian National Dance Academy. There is one teacher (and by the second season she is the principal of the school), Miss Raine, who particularly strikes my fancy.

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Pretty Little Liars Recap, “Father Knows Best” (Season 2, Episode 22)

In girl culture, Pretty Little Liars, teen soaps, Uncategorized on February 28, 2012 at 11:26 pm

This week our prettiest little liars got one step (read: episode) closer to finding out the true identity of A; got the moms involved; had awkward father-daughter dances and even stranger sibling moments; Aria wore a very red coat; and Maya is still missing. Read on for more on the PLL’s adventures.

This week featured a lot of awkward daughter-dad moments between all the girls (save for perhaps Emily and her dad). What are your thoughts on these dad developments?

Sarah: Spencer wins the prize for worst dad. Peter Hastings is Captain Von Suspicious. I think I believe him about hiring the PI to investigate Melissa, though. I also heavily dislike Byron (Aria’s dad), who did seem to be putting a lot of gross pressure on Aria to be his “little girl” (matching his tie to her dress). I was glad she told him off, because part of the subtext to his whole thing about Ezra is about controlling her sexuality, which is definitely not okay. Emily’s dad was sweet and helpful in the search for Maya, though. I’m nervous about his going back on duty–I hope he’ll be okay!

Phoebe: Spencer totally wins the prize for worst dad and I love the reference to Captain Von Trapp (particularly given Christopher Plummer’s recent win!). I too believe him about hiring a PI as that actually makes sense. Also, I am worried that Spencer’s mother might be involved in all this. And I second your thoughts on Aria–he is being a bit of a jerk. But also, Emily’s dad was so sweet and awesome and I really hope he’ll be okay to come back to Rosewood but I am glad that Emily’s mom will be back on the show. I have really enjoyed watching their relationship develop. Lastly, it is awesome that is episode is named for (I think) the 1960s domestic sitcom Father Knows Best, in which father always does know best. But, for PLL clearly this is not the case! Yay for TV references! Read the rest of this entry »