Saturday, February 16, 2013

Smiles in, tears out as day one brings fun into education

Image from fellowblogger dearoneshealingministry

THE nervous tension that builds during the countdown to start of a new school year always puts the littlies in the spotlight. Not only mum, dad, brothers, sisters, nans, pops, uncles and aunts but often a whole stream of friends and neighbours will whisper in hushed tones: "How do you think he/she will cope?" Will there be smiles or tears on that momentous first day? Without doubt, the first day at school nowadays is less likely to involve the traumas of the past. While I recall I settled down straight away in a battered desk of a country school, a mate decided during the morning recess that he had suffered enough and headed home.

MY vision of day one will always be the plump little boy, red-faced and screaming, bear-hugging a power pole outside the school gate as a teacher tried to prise him free and carry him back to the classroom. As pupil management theories have advanced and society generally has thought a lot about the importance of a good start to education, such scenes have become rare among the happy, smiling faces. Some schools, however, have always been virtually tear free. They are places where the learning is fun, even when that scary word 'discipline' is etched into the background. Take, for instance, a ballet school such as the one Nicole Ashfield set up in the Redlands more than three decades ago. The 'first day' for the littlies there means lots of fun, jumping, skipping, hopping to music and nursery rhymes as well as having an introduction to basic positions in dance training, Nicole says.

ASHFIELD Ballet School's youngest students are just three years old, and Nicole has gained much satisfaction from seeing them grow up. She says the discipline of dance training boosts self confidence and can be a lifetime benefit. Nicole first developed her love of dance under the tuition of her mother, Avril Binzer, and has a long list of performance and education credits. Nicole's daughter, Hayley Ashfield-Predl, who also has many career credits, is her partner in Ashfield Ballet School. They employ other teachers and run junior classes in Cleveland, Alexandra Hills, Capalaba, Wellington Point, Ormiston and Thornlands, with Ashfield Ballet Studio in Moreton Bay Road, Capalaba, as the headquarters.

MANY of their students have been high achievers. The Ashfield award winners for 2012 were: Most promising junior (ballet), Lisa Verstraten; most promising junior (tap), Jaden Guerrini; most promising all-rounder, Anna Booth; overall encouragement award Kiri Morgan; most consistent effort in solos, Jordan Predl; dance excellence, Taylah Forbes; most promising contemporary, Tamara Camilleri; and Avril Binzer Classical Ballet Award, Gemma Carroll. Remember these names, which are likely to get star billing in important places in years to come.

This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

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