Let me start by saying that I love each and every class I teach each week, some weeks that’s all 15 of them! I love hearing, “It’s the Zumba® lady!” when I enter a school. I love seeing my tiniest babies wrapped up all cozy with their mamas while we dance in Baby Mombo. I love seeing pregnant mamas find a new challenge and new level of strength during our Strong Mama classes. And where do I begin with how much I love every aspect of teaching Zumbini® classes? From the joy of jumping around like a kangaroo to singing songs about pizza to watching each and every child develop their abilities as they grow each week, I love teaching Zumbini®!
But lately, I have found my favorite class is one that you will not see in any photos. You won’t even see it on my registration page. And it may have been the hardest class I’ve had to design as a teacher.Close to two years ago I was asked if I would be willing to start teaching a Zumba Kids® class for a group of kids with moderate to profound developmental disabilities. While I’ve worked with children with different needs in a formal classroom setting and taught dance classes in various settings, I had never taught a class for this specific population. I knew the average age would be older than any group I had worked with previously and each child would have a one-on-one caregiver present who would participate as well.
Thinking back to my first playlist brings back so many unique questions:
What would the average mobility ability of the group? Have they ever had a teacher-led dance class before? How do I choose choreography that is the right level for everyone present? How do I keep the adults excited and engaged on a different level than the kids each week? Do I have enough music that not too babyish and not full of adult content?Now, after almost two years of working together each week, I think I’ve found my favorite class. Each week I’m greeted by smiles, “Hello” signs, or loud excited yelling from most of my non-verbal friends. One person, in particular, follows me right to the dance floor galloping while saying, “Dance time! Dance time!” (He is also my most enthusiastic clapper throughout the class!) We’ve fallen into a rhythm of repeating favorite songs each week for long lengths of time because the kids love knowing the routine and order of the songs as well as mastering the choreography. They enjoying marching in place for a meringue while their caregivers enjoy the same step while moving their arms for added difficulty. The kids love songs with lots of jumping so the caregivers are always challenged to keep up their cardio. New songs are typically met with a few weeks of non-participation as the kids get used to the new sounds and movements, but the caregivers encourage them to try at least one new move each week until they master the new song. A few weeks later, that song is a new favorite on rotation.