Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gymnastics Recital- Take Two: Level 1

Level 1 is typically beginners over the age of 5. Some kids fly through level 1 so fast that it's just a quick stepping stone for them. And other children spend a year or more there. It's tough to make a kid stay in level 1 if they feel they should move up. Typically parents feel a child should move up after a year/season. I've had quite a few parents get upset with me because I don't feel comfortable moving their child up to level 2. In order to move up, a child needs to have a good, solid cartwheel. In my completely unprofessional opinion, a child shouldn't move to Level 2 unless they can do a straight-legged cartwheel. The problem when you move them too soon is that in Level 2 you're no longer working on cartwheels, you're working on handstands and round-offs. So when a child can't even do a proper cartwheel, they are already behind. It's not fair to them, or to the rest of the class. It's hard to tell a parent, after a year or more, that their child still needs to be in level 1.

I have three level 1 classes this year. They can be fun, and they can be a lot of work. The kids are new in gymnastics, typically, and are excited to learn. Some kids are there because their parents make them and they don't actually want to learn. Luckily, I don't have any of those this year.

My first level 1 class had 10 kids when I started the year, with a long waiting list. I had to open a 2nd class as a result. Now there are 4 sweet little girls, two of them are returning students from last year. I had a hard time choosing a song for them because when we first started our recital rehearsals there were 6 girls in the class, and a big age difference between the youngest and oldest. I needed something that fit them all. I settled on "Naturally" by Selena Gomez because I figured everyone would know who she was. Nope. But that's okay because they all like the song.
I also like this song because there are definite tempo changes in the song that the girls can use for key points in the choreography. It makes it easier for them to remember when to do something when it fits the song.

My second level 1 class was a result of a waiting list of the first. I've had so many children in and out of that class all year long. The 4 girls I have now are not the same kids I started with. At one point I was about to shut down the class because all the students missed several weeks in a row. Then suddenly one night these 4 girls showed up, and here we are!
I originally picked a remixed song by Elvis called "Rubberneckin'" because I had a boy in the class. The boy dropped out and the girls did *not* like that song. Going through my iTunes playlist with the girls one night, they got their heart set on none other than "What Is Love" by Haddaway... of Night at the Roxbury fame. Complete with head bob ala Will & Jimmie, the girls are having a lot of fun with this one. None of the kids can "tumble" too well, so we just went for "fun routine" instead of "show off our skills" routine. It works!

My third level 1 class has also morphed into something completely different than it started out to be. I began the year with a class full of eager beginners. There has been a waiting list for this class at this time slot all year. Eventually I was down to three little girls. Two of them were ready to move up to level 2, so I bumped them up. One little girl was left by herself for a few weeks. Unbeknown to me, there was still a waiting list for the class. No one who had dropped the class, or moved up, went to the front desk to take their name off my roster. So I had one little girl, and a waiting list. Finally we got it all taken care of and admitted three new girls. They were so little, ages 4 and 5. The first girl, who was by herself for awhile, left us, and now we have three really cute little princesses whose big sisters are all in the level 2 class that's taught at the same time by another teacher.
First I picked the song "Dancing Crazy" by Miranda Cosgrove. I thought it would be a fun song for the girls, but it ended up being too fast for their limited skills. Another teacher wanted to use that song for her class so I said "have at it!" One thing about picking these songs is that you have to pick something that fits the class. If the class can handle a fast upbeat song, then go for it. If they can't, then maybe find something slower. Which is exactly what I did! I took my little princesses and found them a princess song. I made little princess wands for them to have during their routine, too. They are so excited! Especially because they get to keep their wands after Saturday.
Our song is "Today Was A Fairytale" by Taylor Swift. (And OMGosh this video is *so* cute!!)

Tonight is our dress rehearsal. I'm very anxious to see how things will play out. Some of the classes really know their stuff and I'm not worried in the least. Other classes have kids that were absent on so many days that they don't know the routine. I had one class where the girl was gone for a month and a half, then just surprised me last week. I had changed the whole routine to exclude her, then had to confuse everyone by changing it back to put her back in. It's such a challenge not only for me, but for the kids. We all have to figure out how to maneuver around these distractions.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gymnastics Recital- Take One: Tumbling Tigers

The time is quickly approaching. Back in April, I thought this week would never come! But here we are, Recital Week! We have dress rehearsal, recital, and then the last day of classes.

For gymnastics recitals in our YMCA, each teacher picked out songs for their own classes based on age level, level of skill the classes are, and what's appropriate for that group. Some of us let our students pick and some of us have had ideas since September. I was a mixture of both. A few songs I'd had my eye on for awhile, and a few songs just popped in my head spontaneously as I was trying to think of what would be good for a class. One song the class picked out all by themselves, and it's a little surprising what they chose.

I'll post my Tumbling Tiger songs today. Tumbling Tigers, at our Y, are 3, 4 & 5 year old pre-schoolers. They don't do a lot for recital and we we have to be on the floor helping them most of the time. We set out mats in an obstacle course, teach them a few basic dance moves that go with the song, and let them do their thing.

My first Tumbling Tiger class I solo-teach. There are only three kids in it right now, after having three move away earlier this year, and one little girl's mama decided she was too young and wouldn't understand the recital. At 3 years old, that's a tough call sometimes. Louisa's first ballet recital was when she was 3 and she really got in to it and understood what she was doing. But I agreed with this mom's decision, her daughter really didn't have the maturity to remember the routine from week to week, and I'm guessing she wouldn't have wanted to be on stage in front of an audience.
So for my first song I chose a little ditty from the Disney Channel show Phineas & Ferb. I was working gymnastics birthday parties one day when a parent brought in their own CD of fun kids music. This song was on the CD and I thought it was perfect for a Tumbling Tiger routine. With only three kids, I have a short routine, and this is a short song to match it.

My second Tumbling Tigers is co-taught with another coach. She's a super sweet high school senior who's been doing gymnastics her whole life. She's taught me a *lot* this year. We have a large class of about 10 kids, so we needed a face paced, long song to get us through. She chose a very upbeat song by Mitchel Musso, of Hannah Montana fame. I choreographed the routine by myself because my co-teacher had to miss a bunch of classes in a row. However, after doing this for years, she has told me this is one of her favorites. Since this is my first year choreographing by myself, I take that compliment and run :)

The song is called Let's Make This Last 4Ever, and seriously, if you have a pre-teen or a smaller kid with an iPod, buy this for them! It's such a great dance song. My Tumbling Tigers can't stop dancing when they hear this. It's so cute!

Come on back tomorrow! I've got more songs to post, and more gymnastics classes to brag.... I mean, talk about.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Buckle down, kid!

Growing up, I had 1000 ideas of what I wanted to do some day when I.... well grew up. My list was long, and well rounded. Teacher, photographer, marine biologist, singer, songwriter, actress (movie and Broadway), veterinarian, comedienne, wedding planner, costume designer, professional basketball player, Peace Corps worker, Playboy Playmate, social worker, psychologist, ghost hunter, psychic, Navy... person, choreographer, editor, dog trainer, painter/artist, journalist, novelist, archeologist, children's minister, astronaut, Princess Leia, Daisy Duke, and/or Madonna. (*Note how "chef", or "baker" is not actually listed in the previous list.)

There isn't exactly a college that caters to all those careers, so my senior year of high school I made the bold decision to NOT GO to college the following year. I can honestly say I was the only one of my friends that didn't go to college. The losers, the drop outs, the wrong-side-of-the-track-better-not-let-mama-catch-you-hanging-out-with-them, everyone, but me, went to a college of some sort. Tech school, art school, university, junior college. If they weren't going in to the service, they hit the books. Me? I decided to work for a year (ha!!) and think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

~Wanna hear God laugh? Tell Him your plans!~
Isn't that how the saying goes? Oh He laughed at me alright! He said, "Girl, you don't need to go to college right now cause I'm gonna make you a MAMA!" And poof, there I was, 18 years old and pregnant. I no longer needed to worry about which of those 50 careers I had picked out I would choose. I had to worry about getting *any* job that would support my new baby girl because I had just been thrown in the middle of single-mom-hood. Forget college, girl! Raise this baby!
15 years ago I was less than two weeks from graduation. Who knew what lay in store for me? I knew I was scared to enter the real world, and looking back I'm glad God gave me that crash course at the school of hard knocks. I wouldn't have made it if He hadn't. I'd have been stuck in my parent's house until I was 30, STILL trying to decide what to do with my life.

I look back at high school and it's just one big mess in my mind. There's no beginning or end, there was no one friend that got me through, there wasn't any sort of particular "social class" that I fit in. I was just there. Invisible. Annoyed. Trapped. Very wrapped up in myself. How could I have ever focused on college when I was that young? These kids I go to school with now, they are 18, 19, 20 years old and so many of them are focused and ready to hit the ground running as soon as they can. It amazes me! I'm still not like that and I'm 33! Not saying I don't have ambitions, I just have quiet humble ones.

Now teaching my children to have loud, strong ambitions, that's a whole 'nother story. I want them out there, singing, dancing, getting noticed. They are going to change the world and make some noise. I want them to shake things up and get people's attention. Whatever it is they want to do, they need to *do* it with as much spunk as they can. Get on stage, wow a crowd, take the punches, learns the lessons, give until it hurts, wear your heart on your sleeve, and love what you are doing.

I have one child who makes these empowering speeches a tad difficult, though. He's more like me than either of us care to admit. Every week he comes to me with another "This is what I *REALLY* want to be when I grow up" story. I want to sit him down and say, "Look, I don't care if you're only in 4th grade. You need to buckle down, kid! Pick something for crying out loud!" Every single week it's a new thing.
"Mom! Guess what? I have FINALLY found what I'm going to be when I grow up! Isn't that great?! I'm going to be a....
professional hockey player
comic book writer
video game maker
Pokemon... person
air force... person."
This week, or rather, today, it's video game maker living in Japan. Great. I'll visit you at Christmas.

Not that I have anything against kids having dreams, but I would like for my kids to be traditional college students and not have their minds filled with SO many possibilities that they can't even narrow it down to a handful of, say five. Like me.

I'm in college, for the second time around, with a new degree program since last time, and I *STILL* don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I mean, how can I know? There are so many things to do in life. I would love to bake for a living, but is it feasible? My ultimate dreams are these:
~own a bakery/bookstore. A small local one in some cute little southern Wisconsin town (when we are done with the army).
~Work in a bakery just baking and maybe learning decorating as I go, but mainly concentrating on baking artisan breads and such.
~pursuing my writing dream full-time (already got one foot in the door, it can't hurt to keep trying).
~just giving up on all of it and moving to Tahiti. I'll spend the rest of my days living in a hut on the beach, catching/growing my food, never worrying about money again.

There is a lesson to be learned in all this. The lesson, I think, is to buckle down while you're young. There's no reason a 4th grader can't pick one career goal and work his tail off to achieve it. All this dreaming about 200 different job choices just creates confusion. That confusion can lead you to where I am today. A 33 year old college student who STILL can't just decide on a flippin' career already and be done with it!

**Thanks to high school friend Amanda for reminding me of my once HS ambition to get a boob job and be a Playmate.