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Holiday Cheer

"True beauty is born through our actions and aspirations and in the kindness we offer to others." ~Alek Wek

With the chaos of finals, the end of the semester, and the added holiday stress, I am always thankful for some fun classroom events that boost positive energy and remind us that our students are pretty awesome. Over the past two years, I've been invited to visit the Peer Partners Adapted PE classes during finals week to judge their holiday dance competitions. Let me tell you...if you are in need of some excitement and entertainment during this stressful time, this is the place to be. I walked out of every period smiling ear to ear after witnessing the true excitement some of our students have for school and the passion other students have for helping and supporting their peers.
Every year, the students in Mr. James Kennedy's Peer Partners class work to choreograph, practice, and perfect a holiday dance to perform for their class, peers, teachers, and teaching assistants from the school. On the day of the performance, groups come in prepared to dazzle their audience and spread some holiday cheer. They do so with costumes, ugly Christmas sweaters, Santa hats, and other props that will hopefully stand out when it comes time for audience members to vote on the best dance. After being lucky enough to judge a few classes the past two years, I wanted to share what I learned from this very special experience:

1. All students deserve opportunities to be in the spotlight

In a school of our size, it can be difficult to provide experiences for all students to shine and feel valued. Don't get me wrong...we do a great job of this, but at times, our classrooms are the best way to showcase students and make them feel valued, and special, in the eyes of their peers and teachers. In Peer Partners, the whole concept behind the class is for our students to work with and support athletes in the classroom. Any time you walk into this class, the athletes are truly excited to be working with their peers and so proud to showcase their athletic, and in this case, dancing skills. The pure joy that came with performing for their peers, teachers, and supporting staff was evident on the athletes' faces before, during, and after the dance performances. Their excitement increased as others watching the performances applauded, cheered, or even joined in on the fun. It was obvious that Mr. Kennedy and the other staff that work to support the athletes were proud of their progress and impressed with the effort and enthusiasm they put into their holiday performances. This opportunity to be in the spotlight didn't just boost the athletes' moods, but all spectators were treated to a wonderful show that brightened their days, too.

2. Students can learn so much from other students and staff at this building
It is so amazing to see students take a leadership role in the classroom. As they lead, they must use what they learn and make it their own. As I watched the athletes and their peers, it was evident that the athletes truly admired their fellow classmates and looked to them for support and encouragement. The peers were kind, patient, and most importantly, their biggest cheerleaders. It also became very clear that our students watch us [the teacher] more than we think. When they lead, they lead based on how they have been led by their teachers. It is true what they never know who is watching and how they will use your leadership in the classroom to make an impact on others. Pretty powerful stuff.

3. We have some awesome support staff at Neuqua Valley High School

Wow! I would argue with anyone that we have the best support staff at any school in this area. The teaching assistants that help out in Peer Partners are absolutely wonderful and so impressive. Like the peers, these awesome adults are patient, kind, supportive, and always willing to make the students smile. To provide further evidence of this, I witnessed numerous teaching assistants take part in the dance competition. They learned the dance and performed with the students. Isn't that so awesome? That is not something they have to do, but they did so with grace and pride. In one class, three teaching assistants choreographed and performed their own dance. What a treat for our students! Our TAs are quite impressive and deserve so much recognition for their work and support in the classroom.

4. Our students make a difference in others' lives every day by spreading kindness

This speaks for itself. The students in this Peer Partners class are helping others, influencing others, and ultimately, showing how important it is to be kind. While we can teach our students' various skills and information connected to content in our class, if we can teach them how to spread kindness, we are doing our jobs. Their kindness can and will promote more kindness...which is what our world needs. Yes, I think this one deserves a #boomshakalaka.

Now, my friends, it's time for a well-deserved break for our students and staff. Rest assured that we are creating great memories and awesome experiences for our students on a daily basis. Thanks for a great first semester....peace out, 2018! #whatsup, we come!!!!!