WOMEN AT PLAY: DANCING IN THE HALL By Dr. Linda Cobourn
I’m honored to have Dr. Linda Cobourn here to share with us how music made a difference with one of her classes. She reminds us that sometimes we just need to take the time to Dance in the Hall. Welcome, Linda!
WOMEN AT PLAY: DANCING IN THE HALL
By Dr. Linda Cobourn
It was one of those rare moments, a spontaneous celebration erupting out of nowhere. The adult students in my Communications II class were learning the rhetorical strategies of pathos, ethos, and logos by presenting short skits. The last skit provoked a lot of noise,
with one student bursting into the classroom waving a loaded eraser while the student portraying Pathos cowered under a desk crying. So loud had been her screams that several male students and the dean showed up at our doorway.
To “get back at me” for the disruption my class had caused, the professor of Music Empowerment chose to bring her students out to the hallway to sing “I’m Every Woman.” Unexpectedly, I lead my class out to join in. There we were, forty students and two professors, dancing and singing during class hours.
I watched the faces of my students: they were joyous, elated to be engaging in a few moments of revelry, literally casting off their cares of being adult students with jobs, families, and financial woes.
Adults need the opportunity to play. In 2016, studies report that 30% of adults are
working at multiple jobs. With the responsibility of children still living at home and elder parents needing care, the adult of 21st century America is stressed, tired, and on the verge of emotional collapse. Some adults have also returned to school for greater employment opportunities following job loss. This particular class, all women, had experienced some tough breaks in life. They’d been left to raise children alone, or were recovering from addictions. College did not come easily to them.
College programs designed for adult students are different than traditional programs. Most adults who return to school are only on campus for class and library use. It is no wonder that adult students feel isolated. This sense of isolation is a reason only one out of four adult college students finish a degree. In the lives of those women, all from an urban area low on the economic scale, emotional burnout was high. More than learning mere content, I wanted them to experience the joy that should be part of continuing education.
Research indicates that music is “hard-wired” into our brains. Familiar lyrics and tunes
stimulate more parts of our brains than any other activity. In taking a few moments to play and be silly, my students were actually stretching their capacity to learn. We danced in the hallway, throwing off our cares as women of multiple responsibilities. We dropped the burdens we’d all carried into the classroom and let the music move our bodies and our souls.
The overwhelming work required of higher education squeezes out the little leisure time left over from other responsibilities. Adults who do manage to finish their degree report that they feel elated when the process is over.
But there’s nothing wrong with a little elation along the way. We should all occasionally dance in the hallway.
Dr. Linda Cobourn is a literacy specialist who works with at-risk learners and non-traditional college students. Her research interests include building college-ready skills in middle school students and providing academic support to adult learners. Dr. Cobourn also cares for her disabled husband and autistic son and writes about the experiences at http://writingonthebrokenroad.blogspot.com/
How about taking 5 minutes to get up and move to I’m Every Woman?