Hello Ralph Buck Keynote Speaker at CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

When did you have your breakthrough as a teacher? That is, when did you understand what it was all about?
I have had many, many ‘breakthrough’ moments as a teacher. The first that I can remember is during my first year of teaching in 1985 at West Wyalong High School, NSW, Australia. This was my first full-time appointment as a Physical Education teacher since the completion of my Bachelors in Health and Physical Education. Upon completing me teaching degree I had travelled to Europe, and at the time of my appointment I was working in a hotel in the Swiss Alps. So, you can imagine my dilemma when my father telephoned to tell me I had been appointed as P.E. teacher in a small ‘outback’ rural High School, and I had to present myself at the school in 4 days time.

Anyway, I turned up and the first 2 terms (24 weeks) of teaching was hell. I had forgotten about what school meant, and in particular what teaching meant. Most of my classes were OK, but I never felt comfortable, I didn’t think I was the ‘teacher’ I wanted to be.

At the beginning of the second half of the year I decided to stop trying to be a teacher and just be myself. I stopped wearing P.E. teacher clothing, stopped trying to be serious, in control, authoritarian and married to the curriculum. I turned up to school wearing a bright floral shirt, and with my voice in full swing taught the students ‘in front of me’ and not the ‘textbook’ students. The girls in Year 10 (15yrs old) were the first to respond. They aggressively defended my new approach when the boys in the class started to question my sexuality. The girls quickly and with razor sharp tongues sliced to pieces the boys “red-neck homophobia” (Year 10 girl). Rather than hide from or feel embarrassed by this 2pm Friday afternoon war of attitudes, I stood in front of them all and said ‘this is me.’ It was all I could muster at that moment, but over the next 12 weeks, I was much happier, students began to trust me and ALL of my classes were fantastic. I loved teaching and loved being a teacher.

The Year 10 girls in a small outback Australian School taught me the most important teaching lesson: ‘Be yourself’.

What role has dance teaching in today's contemporary society?
The teaching of dance has an important role in society. I come from the position that there are many ways to know the world and self, and as such many ways to represent and experience that knowledge. Dance is a valid, real and time honoured practice that has served every society throughout history. Our needs to dance are not going to suddenly disappear just because we have iPads.

Teachers of dance enable learners to be future leaders of dance in whatever community those learners choose to enter. Teachers of dance help the next generation of dance professionals utilise their knowledge and skill in ever-increasing and diverse contexts.

Why is teaching dance so important?
Teaching dance is important because it helps people understand themselves, others and the world.

Associate Professor Ralph Buck
The University of Auckland

Paper presentation at CLOSE ENCOUNTERS:
Sustaining the Teaching of Dance Education:
Relationships, Relationships and more Relationships

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