You Shouldn’t Need Permission To Dance

Photo taken by Andre Hunter
Photo taken by Andre Hunter

There we were on a lazy Saturday morning. At the breakfast table, enjoying pancakes, bacon and a cool iTunes mix. When all of a sudden a song by One Direction came on. My son looked at me and said

Daddy, can I dance?

I thought to myself, why is he asking permission? Just get up and let loose little buddy. Of course I immediately said yes. And he proceeded to dance a jig as only a four-year olds could. I wanted to snap a picture, but doing so would have caused the song to stop playing and I wasn’t about to interrupt this.

It was a beautiful moment of self-expression. But, I still can’t help but wonder why he felt the need to ask for permission.

To dance.

In his own house.

On a Saturday.

To a jammin’ tune.

This brief moment with my son led me to wonder if we are providing our students enough opportunities to Dance. And if we’re not, why not? And in the off-chance that we are, do our students feel they need our permission to do so? I don’t think that Picasso asked for anyone’s permission to dance. I don’t think that Toni Morrison asked for anyone’s permission to dance. And I am quite certain that Steve Jobs never felt the need to ask for anyone’s permission.

Neither of the aforementioned individuals would have created a fraction of what they did if they would have waited for permission. How many young artists, writers and engineers have we discouraged simply because we didn’t allow them the time and the space and the freedom to express what was inside them?

I wonder.

I always wanted to invent something that would move around & make funny noises & would change the world as we know it & I forgot all about that until we had kids & now I see I came pretty close.

Brian Andreas, Invention

This is not to say that we should allow our students to have free rein. That would be ludicrous. But I believe that we do need to allow them the opportunity to find their true passion. And once they do. Let them spend time exploring them. The problem is that if a child feels that they must ask permission every time they feel urge to dance, pretty soon they will stop hearing the music altogether. Therein lies the tragedy that we must work to prevent.

We can do this through opportunities like genius hour and 20% time. We can do this by not always telling students what they have to read and what they have to write. When permission precedes expression, dreams die. Enthusiasm becomes nonexistent. And the dance floor becomes empty.

Will it be a little scary?

Absolutely!

Will it be a little messy?

Most definitely!

But what is our endgame? Do we want to teach our students how to capture a few pawns? Or would we rather them set their sights on the queen? It is up to us. Children come to us at four and five years old thinking that they can fly. Who are we to clip their wings?

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.

J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan