Sunday, October 5, 2014

how OT makes me a better DANCER

Inspired as I usually am by Meghan's insight and intellect, I thought I would do a self-collaboration post of my own. Ever since having joined the adult working world a few short years ago, I've determinedly made it my mission to maintain my job as just that, and not let it consume my life or be definitive of my person. However, even the cynical millennial hidden inside of me agrees that my job has altered the more cherished parts of my life in some really excellent ways.

In other words;

When I was 18 and entering dear, sweet Boston University for the very first time, I knew two things; first, that I loved history! and Spanish! and literature! and second, that the economy was bad. I wasn't totally sure what the economy was, I just knew that it was BAD. For some foolish reason, I intended to study something that would most assuredly get me a job in this mysterious "economy" and so I chose the small, but very specifically guided BS/MSOT program. For five years, I would study occupational therapy, and in five years, I would become an occupational therapist.

The process is still a bit of a blur.

The only problem I encountered was that seemingly no one outside of Sargent College knew what occupational therapy was. Fear not, Undergrad Amy, because this problem will follow you into the professional world, where your friends, family, coworkers, and as many boys you will ever meet in bars will also not be totally clear about what it is you do for a living.

I'll give you the Cliff's Notes version.

Occupational Therapy is a rehabilitation science dedicated to ...ready... occupation. In this sense, "occupation," doesn't refer to a career, but rather to "activity" or anything that occupies your time. Dancing is an occupation. Blogging is an occupation. Brushing your teeth is an occupation. Driving is an occupation. Putting on make-up is an occupation. Going out and drinking beeahs on the weekend is an occupation, kehd. You get the point.

Occupational therapists work in a number of settings with a number of populations to help enable participation in ...all together now... occupation. Me, personally, I work in a school, so it is my job to assist students in participating in school-based occupations.

I work with a variety of elementary age students with a broad spectrum of need. I have some general education students who need some help with keeping their handwriting legible, or who require help sitting and paying attention during lessons. The bulk of my caseload, however, are students who are on the books as "multiply handicapped," meaning that they present with some significant and severe disabilities. In other words; my days are never boring, and my job is a lot of fun. 

One of my charges and me.
So then, how does this academic business help me with dance? In a number of ways, ACTSHUALLY.

Because I've had to spend the last ::gulp:: nine years constantly explaining what it is that I do, I've gotten used to advocating for myself and my beliefs about things that are important to my career; you know, like fostering an individual's independence with skills and improving their quality of life. It's not that different from being a modern dancer. People have some scary ideas about modern dance that tend to keep them away from performances that, in all reality, they would probably enjoy very much. I've learned that in order to be taken seriously, you need to take yourself seriously, a tenet that has prompted me to give out Calamity business cards to just about everyone I meet.
I'm also learning when to let others speak for me.

If progress happened over night, I would be out of a job. I feel like OT has taught me to recognize small bits of improvement and change, and of course, to keep on keepin' on even in times of frustration. A student having a meltdown is hard to work with, but if today's meltdown is five minutes instead of yesterday's six minutes, then that is progress. If today I can't seem to get on my leg to do a turn, I'm going to be that much more amped about my center tomorrow. One bad therapy session, one bad rehearsal doesn't undo all that we have learned up to that point.

Both OT and Dance emphasize the importance of stretching.

You know by now this is not something we take lightly around here. Indeed at work, it is something that cannot be understated. On any given day, I talk to teachers, speech therapists, physical therapists, other OTs, teachers of the visually impaired, paraprofessionals, adapted physical education teachers, about the same students, the same obstacles and the same successes. They bring their own individual expertise and experience to the same table at which I'm sitting and can help me alter my perspective in a number of ways. This idea of "different strokes for different folks" is the keystone of Calamity COLLABORATIONS Dance. Why wouldn't you want to enhance your own art by working with other brilliant artists?

Art happens when we work together.

Okay, this is my favorite by far. My students do their best learning when they are happy. It's part of my job to keep them happy, and in so many words, entertained. Elementary school hasn't changed so much since you were last there; you still need to remember to put your name on everything, you still need to share the kickballs at recess, you still need to fill-in bubbles with a No. 2 pencil, and for some ungodly reason, you still need to learn fractions. While I, as a quasi-grownup, see the benefits of most of these lessons, they can still be pretty miserable when you're in the third grade and just want to do cartwheels on the playground. I see it as part of my job to make school a place that kids like to go, a place where they want to be, taking in the good and the not-so-good. The very same can be said for dance. Not everyone enjoys modern dance as much as I do and I accept this. So part of my mission when I'm creating work is very much derived from what I think will please my audience. Call me a brown noser, call me a people pleaser, but I try to aim my work less at what I'm trying to say and more at what my audience would be interested in hearing.

The audience wanted me to vocally perform Gin and Juice, which was convenient since that was what we rehearsed.

And there you have it! I feel truly lucky to be able to work in my chosen field, but also to pursue a passion that I love so dearly, even if I have to defend and explain both of them on a regular basis. I never shy away from an opportunity to talk about things that are important to me, so I thank you, dear reader, for indulging me this time around.

In closing, enjoy E's interpretation of Calamity #5, complete with disco ball and pom poms. That's me in the green and an alarmingly accurate Brian Hayman with his axe.

-Miss Amy, OT


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