Learning from the Middle School Dance
by Rebekah Madrid, Humanities Team Leader, MS Student Council sponsor
If you are anything like me, you don't have fond memories of your middle school dances. That feeling of awkwardness is a visceral one; an unpleasant mixture of uncertainty, self-consciousness, and a knowledge that nothing could ever matter more than this dance. Even writing this, I still get a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I remember from seventh grade. No one wants to relive middle school and I was happy to leave the dances behind.
So it's somewhat ironic that I have been the adult in charge of organizing 26 middle school dances at YIS. And it is even more astounding that being part of these dances has been one of my favorite roles as middle school student council advisor. It is at these dances, that are still full of moments of middle school drama and awkwardness, that I have seen my students learn in unexpected ways. And it is also at these dances where I have seen the YIS Middle School community shine.
The middle school dance committee is a group of 15-25 students who are in charge of planning the music, finding the chaperones (not an always an easy task), creating decorations, and advertising the dance. They work for about three weeks on this project because they want to plan the best dance ever. These kids give up their lunch time to plan an event for 150 classmates, and they continually demonstrate enthusiasm, incredible organization techniques, and an ability to overcome adversity. Kids who struggle to with long-term projects in the classroom work on detailed action plans and budgets, without me having to supervise. Kids who don't always show initiative are the first ones to go ask a teacher to give up their Friday nights to chaperone dances. These kids create a music playlist that they know will never satisfy every student at the dance and reflect on how to make it better for the next dance. Grade 8 students mentor the younger grades, teaching them how to organize and plan. They take pride in how fast they can clean up after the dance. They work hard. And they work hard because it matters to them. No matter how silly I think it is (and there are times I can't believe the intensity of discussions about balloons), these kids care about creating an amazing event for their friends. And when kids care, they learn so much.
And at the actual dances, I love seeing the kids dancing together. I am so impressed by our YIS kids and their ability to get in a circle and dance with kids from all different friend groups and different grades. They cheer kids who are brave enough to dance in the center of the circle and recognize these moments as moments of real risks. I love hearing them singing at the top of their lungs, without a bit of self-consciousness. I always smile looking at the intensity of the DJs as they see kids cheering at their song choice or the pride of decorations committee as their balloon arch lasts the entire three hours. They celebrate their first dance as sixth graders and dress up to commemorate the end of middle school at their graduation dance. I love that despite moments of anxiety and nerves, the YIS middle school students have fun hanging out with each other. At every single dance, I am reminded of what a special community we have at YIS. And there is no one who is more surprised than me that it's feelings of fun and joy and community that now define my middle school dances.