Education and Community Engagement’s X³: Explore, Extend, Excel! Program – A Teaching Assistant’s Journey

Education and Community Engagement is thrilled to announce the start of its new X³: Explore, Extend, Excel! program (formerly HBASP) this week on Tuesday, January 19. Lindsey Ho, a 10th grader from St. John’s School in Houston shares her joys and experiences of working with students in the program last semester.

All teachers
From left to right: Ellie Blanchat, Lauren Anderson, Lindsey Ho & Kirk Suddreath.

I first heard about X³ when the program came to my school, T.H. Rogers, several years ago.  At the time, I was a student at Houston Ballet Academy.  I was delighted when  my schedule allowed me to help out with this program last semester.

I visited Francis Elementary in the Aldine School District every Wednesday.  Lauren Anderson and Ellie Blanchat were the teachers, and Kirk Suddreath was the live musician.  The first week we taught at Francis, I could tell the kids were excited, yet nervous.  I could empathize with the kids, because I also felt the same way.  I was pleasantly surprised how happy and willing the girls were to dance. The boys were a little uneasy because they thought we were going to be teaching them ballet. After we reassured the boys that they would not be wearing pink tutus, they warmed up to us.

The second week, all the kids were excited to see us, even the boys who seemed anxious and uninterested the week prior. Although I loved all the students, one in particular stood out to me. “Mary” seemed apprehensive and initially didn’t want to stand up and participate with everyone. I made a point to go stand next to her and quietly help her. She later told me she was worried that she could not keep up with everyone. I was delighted when she actually started enjoying herself. I have often heard adults comment how they could see joy on a child’s face. I didn’t actually understand that statement until I saw how Mary positively responded throughout the semester.

I especially liked the X³ curriculum because it not only taught the kids dance and movement, but also had an academic component.  This semester’s theme was Exploring Science. The kids learned about different science topics such as states of matter, the water cycle and the circulatory system.  Learning the dances helped the kids remember different scientific facts.

On the day of the final performance for family and friends, I was eager, but also nervous about the performance.  Before the show, we rehearsed with the kids and ran through the entire show. We had to quickly change a few things in hopes that it would help the kids remember their routines. When the show was about to start, we handed the kids their Houston Ballet t-shirts. They were so proud to be wearing the new shirts and quickly changed. The parents were very enthusiastic as the show began and the kids did their entrance leaps that led into the circulatory dance. I was so proud of the kids. Everyone did such a good job remembering their cues and the choreography, even the new parts we changed at the last moment.

Linsey and group
Lindsey with students from Francis Elementary.

Handing the kids their certificates after they completed the program was one of the most bittersweet moments I have ever experienced. I felt so spectacular seeing the kids happy and elated about achieving their goal of finishing the program. However, realizing that I wouldn’t come back for another Wednesday class made me feel melancholy. I am going to miss those kids so much. Their hard work and enthusiasm every Wednesday made me look forward to the next class.

I was extremely honored to work with Lauren Anderson, Ellie Blanchat, and Kirk Suddreath last semester. I appreciate Jennifer Sommers helping me get involved in this program.  I have always been a student, but never a “teacher”. Teaching and interacting with these fabulous students was an incredible experience. I gained so much joy from teaching the kids. They were always so eager to learn and dance.  I will always remember my time at Francis Elementary.

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