Dwight teachers are dedicated to personalized learning and to helping students understand and master a wide range of subjects in the vigorous IB curriculum. What’s the secret to doing so and to connecting with students in one of the most rigorous and challenging of courses?
For Upper School chemistry teacher Jennifer Barnett, her own spark of genius provides the winning formula: “As a lifelong dance student, I never forget what it feels like to be confused in a class or to be shy about asking a question,” she explains. “My experiences as a student of dance help me to be more empathetic to my own students’ needs.”
Ms. Barnett has been dancing since preschool, first focusing on tap, and most recently, on vintage swing, like the Charleston, the Lindy Hop, and the Balboa. She competes several times a year and is a past winner of the Canadian Balboa Championships and the New York City Balboa Championships, among other titles.
Ms. Barnett points to lessons learned from dancing as integral to her success as a teacher. “A big lesson of teaching and learning swing dancing is that there is only so much students can learn when they see and hear instruction — they need to ‘do’ to be able to really learn the material,” she says. “Less time talking and more time ‘doing’ brings better results. This applies to science as well as to the more obvious case of dancing.”
A visit to Ms. Barnett’s classroom shows that she takes these lessons to heart by designing innovative, hands-on experiments for students with equipment such as the Vernier pH probe, which tracks the change in acidity in a solution as a reaction progresses, and logs the data automatically in graphical form. Ms. Barnett also sees her interest in dance as a key way to relate to her students, sharing, “It’s a nice bonding experience to hear about my students’ activities, like drama or sports, and for them to hear about mine.” Understanding who her students are inside and outside of the classroom helps Ms. Barnett best tailor each lesson to their unique personalities and learning styles.
“I always have some goal I’m working toward on the dance floor and in the classroom,” she shares. “I love that both dancing and teaching give me infinite room to continuously learn and grow.” We congratulate Ms. Barnett for bringing the “right moves” to Dwight!