With Valentine's Day having just past, emotions regarding, love, passion and joy were at the forefront. As teachers, we give our hearts and soul on a daily basis to our "Little Valentines" and expend a lot of energy regarding the progress and journey of our students. Where they are going, who they will audition and ultimately dance for and where life will take them becomes as much as an invested interest in their accomplishments as our own. We get those butterflies of nerves and excitement for them as they wait in the wings to step out stage, anticipate the arrival of college acceptance letters and patiently await to hear news from professional callbacks. We do so because they are more than our students, but our “kids,” who we worked with for so many years with to get them to this point. We also get those butterflies because we know what it is like; we’ve been there and experienced these life and professional events. Whether a teacher’s own professional dance career was short or long lived, we still live vicariously through them, remembering the nerves, the adrenaline and the exhilaration of life as a dancer at that moment.
The question becomes, how do we maintain some of that in our own lives? How do we keep pushing our own professional selves and education so that we have more to offer our own students? Teachers don’t just become teachers and stop learning. Well….at least they shouldn’t….There is always more knowledge to be had. There is always room to grow. And, there is always room for improvement. No matter your age or your professional stature. If we expect our students to always be bold and curious and hungry to learn, shouldn’t that motto be led by example? When was the last time you felt excited or nervous for a new challenge? When was the last time you felt inspired to try something new? When was the last time you took a continuing education or professional development course or attended a conference? When was the last time you step foot into your own dance class? When was the last time you thought about applying for a new position and stepping out of your comfort zone?
The best teachers are the ones who continually want to learn; who don’t stay stagnant or rote in their classes. Those are the ones who inspire. When we are excited and get that tingling sensation in our belly of learning or trying something new, we inevitably want to share it with others. When someone inspires us, we want to inspire others. It’s a wonderfully transformative cycle that transcends knowledge from generation to generation and artist to artist. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, we exert so much of our own energy onto our students that we sometimes leave little "magic" for ourselves. We must remember that we need to feed our own souls and minds as well to teach, not just give a class. Sometimes we get so comfortable that we forget what it feels like to be nervous or what it means to feel challenged and surrounded by individuals who might be just that much better than ourselves. We need to stay passionate about what we do. Remember that healthy competition and a little bit of intimidation is a good thing, even for teachers. Acknowledging that and feeling that is a good thing. It gets our wheels spinning. It makes us want to be better and it forces us out of old habit and habitual teaching. We rely on things we know, which is a great vessel to have one’s “bag o’ tricks” to pull from, but just think about what every new life experience will add to your curriculum and the lessons you are imparting onto your students. That combined with your prior knowledge, life experience and maturity make you a priceless mentor in your students’ lives.
Everyone owes it to themselves to step out onto that metaphorical stage, often and with zeal and ambition. That doesn’t and shouldn’t just stop because one reaches a certain point in their careers. Be the learner and dancer you want your students to be. Your personal success is just as important as theirs. So shake it up every once in a while. Be fearless and take chances. Be confident and try new things. Keep the magic alive that you had when you first started out as a dancer and never lose sight of that. Feed your soul, not just around Valentine's Day but all year through. Your students will recognize the difference between that kind of teacher and one who sits on their laurels! Always remember….Be bold. Be hungry. Be curious.
Good Luck & Happy Valentine's Day ;)
See you in the dance studio,