Saturday afternoon was the recital for the local dance studio I teach at in Oklahoma City. As many of you may have read, my whole goal in life is to become a teacher. Sometimes the idea seems a bit crazy as this was a career choice I swore I would never take on. Teaching? Phsh--who wants to do that? Deal with kids all the time, come up with lesson plans, make lists...wait, I actually like making lists. Anyway, point being that teaching was not on my To-Do list for life.
Over the last nine months I've been able to dip my toes in the gigantic pool of teaching dance with a class of high school girls and an adult contemporary class. Testing my teaching skills at a studio my last year seemed plausible, better to test my theory of wanting to be a teacher before I stuck in something I either:
a) did NOT like
b) was not good at.
Originally I was given a high school ballet class, a high school jazz class and then the adult class came out of left field. To say I was excited to begin the dance year does little to nothing of showing my enthusiasm. And sheer terror. High school girls? Oh boy, I was there once and look at me, I'm not too far from their age range. Add the fact that I look to be under 18 and I've got myself a bag full of fun right there.
My ballet class was a bit of a challenge, a grand oversight I mis-calculated in the beginning. After spending years in classes full of students whose lives revolved around striving for the absolute best in themselves, it was a bit of a shock to my system to find myself teaching a class of young ladies who simply just wanted to dance. Really that shouldn't have been such a earth shattering realization but for me, dance is my life, my future and my one greatest love. Honestly, I've never gone a year without it and suddenly I have a room full of girls who are here for recreation. In the flash of a momet I realized my notated class had to be thrown out the window and I had to make a whole mind adjustment. Throw in the added bonus of having surley teens who could care less in finding the difference in a "rond de jame a terre" and a "rond de jame en l'air." Needless to say I struggled for a bit with this particular class.
Fortunately after weeks of trying different ideas I hit on a good one: fun music. The more I was able to find music that they liked, the better classes went. I even had a few girls genuinely smile at me, not smirk, smile. Using different popular tunes or orchestrations from movie soundtracks seemed to do the trick, even old CD's of "Hooked on Classics"--a personal favorite of mine for house cleaning--gave them an extra spring in their across the floors. I researched to find some popular hits by the Vitamin String Quartet (Check them out, they have some great stuff!) and was rearing to go for the Spring Recital, but unfortuantely due to clas scheduling conflicts I was unable to continue teaching that particular class. Still in all, that class may have been a hurdle I hadn't anticipated but I came out fine on the other end and learned a valueable lesson in that you really have to find what will work for each class. Learning what works for them will take outside work, methodical planning and quite of bit of patience but the results will be well worth it.
My jazz class went through several turn overs of students as volleyball season kicked in or dance team try-outs came closer or the SAT's creeped around the corner, even choir concerts. Ah, yes. They days of a busy high school student, running from place to place, balancing eighty million to-do's. Don't miss those day....oh wait. I still have those days. Dang. Another adjustment for me: life does not revolve around dance class. Whoa. Who could have ever imagined?
In actuality, I never had a problem with them missing because I realized quickly that all these kids were interested in the pure enjoyment of the class. Can I tell you how nice it is to see a child spinning around and leaping with enthusiasm simply because it makes their heart happy? Don't get me wrong, I'm in a positive atmosphere now, happy to be working with the best place for my heart and soul and OCU--being in a studio atmosphere that's fun and relaxed is something I'd forgotten. It's helped me mellow out a bit and realize that getting them to be happy in themselves and their abilities is what counts.
I had a fantastic group of ladies for jazz that picked up just about everything I could throw and them and had some very positive attitudes. They helped each other outside of class and really were supportive in class as well--what a great expereince to watch these ladies being so giving. Their radiant positivity and energy filled the entire class and carried over to me as well. Thank goodness for my experience in student teaching at a jazz studio and all my time surrounded by the drill team world. Retta, Mrs. Dalton & Mrs. Jackson, if you ever see this, thank you :)
One of my students in the jazz class is a lovely thirty-something lady who decided she wanted to dance. She went to a dancer audition for the heck of it and really wanted to improve, after a while it became something she purely enjoyed. Lucky for me she had a background in cheerleading and in track which helped in teaching her--she was a natural! She also joined me in a class that I had tossed upon me at the beginning of the year, an adult contemporary class. That's right, a first time adult contemporary for begginners.
Two exhuberant women asked for this lyrical class, something they added to their bucket list and when I was approached with the offer I thought, "why not?" I was warned that a good glass of wine would probably be needed after a night's worth of teaching these mom's and yet I never once felt a crazy sense of stress after their class. If anything they inspired me, leaving me wired the rest of the evening. Of anyone or anything I've ever taught, this was my favorite class.
Let me tell, you these ladies worked hard, challenged themselves and always tried their best. We made sure it was a no stress class full of laughter and really good times. One of my ladies would bring her husband and three children so they could spend more family time together. Over time her little girls warmed up to me and by the end of the year they would run up to hug knees or check to make sure I was safely in my car before leaving after close. Her kiddos would dance in the back while I taught, picking up the steps or making up their own only to show me later in the evening. To my absolute delight, even her husband picked up the dance they were learning and was probably their biggest fan next to her three little girls.
For nine months we worked on a two minute routine my adult class performed at rectial. One of my mom's even did a solo! Honesty to goodness, I never felt more like a parent than I did at that 2:00 show. Smiling ear to ear, I watched my classes prance around on stage in their costumes, happily strutting their stuff like they were having the time of their life. Success. Absolute success if each one of those girls had most fun while under the stage lights.
With each time I walked into the studio on Thursday nights for my classes, my heart would swell. How could I feel any other way if I didn't truly love this? I've learned you give so much in teaching, it takes energy, patience, creativity (especially for a dance teacher) and quite a bit of outside time. In the end though, the finished product of a smilling dancer who feels accomplished, happy and self-confident is more than enough for me. I cannot wait to continue teaching, proving my experiment to be a positive experience and that I am indeed on the right path.
So like I began this post, "proud" does not begin to describe how I felt watching my ladies. There are too many emotions to possbily describe what this experience has brought into light for me.