Last Term I was privileged to listen to an address by Li Cunxin, former principal dancer with the Australian Ballet and author of Mao’s Last Dancer. Among the topics addressed by Li was his early experience at the Beijing Dance Academy. Li initially hated ballet. He struggled with intense homesickness and found it nearly impossible to successfully complete some of the basic movements. He stressed that he was not one of the weakest dancers in his class. He was the weakest and at risk of being thrown out of the Academy.
When a new teacher arrived at the Academy who showed an interest in Li and encouraged him to stretch himself further, Li resolved to work as hard as possible to improve. This led him to develop a passion for ballet and to becoming one of the most successful dancers of his generation.
One of the greatest joys I have had as a teacher has been to see students respond with excitement when challenged to try new experiences that they may find uncomfortable at first. In Semester 1 this year, one of my classes read a variety of quality Australian literature texts I selected for them. These were texts the students would be unlikely to read on their own. It was a delight to see the students come to appreciate these texts and to enjoy the creative use of language and humour.
As parents we can encourage our children to take just small steps outside their comfort zone, to be open to trying new experiences.
We can also stay firm when our children are reluctant to keep going with something that may be challenging for them. As Li experienced, sometimes the only path to improvement is to try again and again.
Mrs Jodie Bennett, Head of Junior School – Bayview Campus