Friday, September 2, 2011

Open Eyes

I just finished my first week of school, but this time from the other side of the table. I'm teaching at a local community college here in Dallas and so far I really like what I'm doing. They gave me two classes, Ballet I &II and Body Conditioning. I'm so lucky and"lucky" doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about having this job.

Due to budget cuts, a great deal of schools have been more interested in retiring rather than hiring. Add in the fact that I'm fairly new to the collegiate teaching world and it makes for a hard time landing anything. I keep plugging away though, searching online, sending resumes, writing cover letters, and saying a special prayer before each application goes out. I thank my lucky stars I got this job and that all my classes made. It always seems that things happen for a reason and most often they work out just the way they're supposed to. Thank goodness for that.

Anyway, my first week as a collegiate educator. How was it? Fabulous. Nerve wracking. Wonderfully terrifying. Exceptionally challenging. Though provoking. Blissfully satisfying. Definitely eye opening.

When I was offered to teach Ballet and Body Conditioning, I tried to keep in mind that I would be working with a variety of students. There would be high school students earning dual credit in class. I'd also have adult students taking for no credit, just for the simply fact they want to dance. I also have students who want to be dance majors, many who don't. My Body Conditioning class? Out of fourteen students, two of them have taken dance class. The majority of that class is full of people who just want to know how to live a healthier lifestyle

All that to say that these classes will be very different from my college dance class experience. There's nothing wrong with that in the least bit. Fortunately for me, I had some practice with adult beginner dance students. While teaching at a local dance studio in Oklahoma, the director gave me an additional adult lyrical class to teach. It was an enormous challenge and I couldn't wait to get started. I had two students to begin with and by the end of my second year, I had about five students. That may not seem like a lot, but for an adult lyrical dance class at a tiny studio in the middle of Oklahoma, this was a big deal.

I loved that class. Adored them. They were the sweetest ladies and so incredibly hungry to learn more, be better, work harder. They would beg me to challenge them more and if something was too difficult, they worked that much harder to get it. I looked forward to teaching them every week and I miss working with them very much. To them, dance was a privilege and taking this class was a dream come true. One of my ladies dreamt of dancing her whole life and having the opportunity to perform was a major accomplishment.

I don't know if those ladies realized that although I may have been the teacher, I learned more from them in that two year time frame that I thought possible. They reminded me how much I took for granted in dance. Performance, class, costumes, make-up, lights, what have you. These were elements I skimmed over after a I time because I was so used to it all. Seeing class through their eyes was a whole new experience.

So now I'm working with a new group of students, some younger than me, a few older. Knowing that I'd have a smorgasbord of students at different levels with different backgrounds, I thought it would be beneficial for me, as their instructor, to learn a little bit about them. So, they were assigned to write a short one-page journal entry telling me about their background in dance, a little about themselves, and what they hoped to get out of this class.

I'm amazed at everything I've read. The reasons why some are in the class are all so different, ranging from a harbored childhood dream to needing a sense of expression. A few are taking for the joy of moving and some just want to continue to be better. Their stories are inspiring, each one describing to me what events lead them to the classroom. I feel a bit humbled after each one.

I guess I've felt as if I've been in a bit of a bubble when it comes to dancing. The classes I take, those I take with, we all share that same passion and desire for dance. We know a great deal about it, this world is nothing new. We're a whole driven society that revolves around the arts and everything we do, read, or see seems to always connect back to dance. It's breed into us to keep going, dance harder, and continue to push towards that goal of always moving. Not to say that we don't have other hobbies or interests, this is just a strong part of the life we lead. It's a inner calling I believe we'd find hard to deny. I love that pulse that beats in a room full of high-powered dancers. It's such a rush.

But this is a rush, too. Reading entry after entry, I'm inspired by them, awed by the backgrounds of these students. The courage it takes to step into a class they've never had and try fearlessly to learn something new is amazingly intoxicating. I find myself more eager to get in there and work with them, help them, explain, demonstrate, fix, praise, and encourage.

This job, if I can call it that, is a gift. It's a gentle reminder how blessed I am to do what I love and have a job that allows me to keep dancing. I hope things continue as positively as they've started. On a side note, I'm ecstatic that I don't have to use the threat of a "time out" on any of my students. It's the little things.

Anywho, hope you all had a wonderful back to school week! Have a good Labor Day Weekend!

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