“When I grow up, I want to be a dance teacher just like you!” Camryn, a four year old at my new studio came into class, grinning ear to ear and ecstatically informed me of her newest decision. Little phrases like this are a common frequency in the day of the life of a dance teacher. Each week, I can rest assured that my littlest dancers will provide me with frequent one liners that will leave me dying of laughter, smiling so big or just melting my heart. Even when they’ve completely driven me up the wall and are testing the last tiny bit of my patience, there isn’t a day that ends that I don’t silently close my eyes and thank God for my job.
I’ve heard it time and time again, “Do something you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Yea right, how can that really be possible? Eventually everything must feel like work, right? Correct. Absolutely. There are always days that I dread going to the studio. Where I would rather crawl in bed than have to use my body and mind. However, when you’re lucky enough and the amount of days that feel like work are limited and instead replaced with that warm energetic high that you can only get from something you love, I think the saying would fit. With being a dance teacher, there are definitely ups and downs but the ups are way more frequent than the downs.
I’m not talking about ‘liking’ what you do. I have tons of friends who ‘like’ their job. They go to it 9-5, do their work then leave and go home. No, I’m talking about truly and genuinely loving what you do. And without a doubt in this field you have to be crazy in love with your job or you won’t survive. There are no weekends and few days off. You are working ‘round the clock, creating and developing classes and choreography. You get home from work late and default to answering emails and phone calls from parents who want to understand why their child is in the back, want to set up a private lesson or, sometimes simply want to thank you for what you do.
The most common misunderstanding for dance teachers is that people think we are rich. Rich in love and passion and that’s about it. There is always tons of behind the scenes happenings that the consumer isn’t even fully aware of. Hours of choreography at home, costuming, rhinestoning, thought concepts, searching for music, planning for classes; the list could go on but you get the idea. The sad truth is, most teachers aren’t paid for any outside work other than when they are in classes teaching. I’m not complaining, like I said, I get to do what I love every day so to me it’s worth it. We don’t do this because it’s a quick get rich job or a rich job at all, we do it because we love it. We do it because somewhere along the lines, someone ignited a spark that in turn lit a fire in us; a fire that drew us to the stage or to the studio and made us want to be artists. It’s my hope to find that spark in students and hopefully help ignite it into a larger flame so that the passion and love for the art form and for teaching can continue on. There is such a huge sense of accomplishment when, as a teacher, you see your students on the stage performing your work of art- something that was just an idea or a dream in your head that was then brought to life.
Each day, it becomes more and more obvious to me that by being a dance teacher, I have seemingly the best job in the world. Wow- now some may say that’s a bold statement but I’m serious, it’s the best. I’ve been working as a dance teacher or an assistant dance teacher since I was 15-years-old. That’s almost ten years in the dance industry! I always dreamed that this would one day be my career but I never dreamed that I would have such a love for it. The seemingly endless love my students; both past and present, shower me with is incredible. It’s enough to turn any bad day into a loving and great day.
Over the years, the things that I have taught my dancers, I hope, are things that they take with them to the real world. Not only instilling great technique but also life lessons that I believe all children should learn. The common things that one would think a dance should possess; things such as confidence, grace, poise and self worth. I like to think that what I teach my students goes even deeper than that. Teaching them about what it means to be a good person. To work hard for the things they want. To never settle for mediocrity and instead push yourself to do your very best.
More importantly, my favorite take away from being a dance teacher is the lessons that the kids have taught me in return. Frist, they’ve taught me a thing or two about patience. I have never been a very patient person, or at least I never credited myself for being so. However, after working with children for a time, you quickly learn that if you want a successful classroom for you and them you must learn patience and practice it all the time.
Second, I’ve learned how to be a good role model. When you know that little eyes are upon you, you tend to live life a little differently. With social media these days, there are constantly eyes looking up to you and your every move. I’m very conscious of this and do my best to be sure that my actions are something I would want my students to see or be proud of. Of course, I’m not perfect and things happen but I find myself becoming more and more aware of what I do and how it would look to others.
There are many more lessons but the last I want to touch on is the sense of proudness and creative outlet you get. I truly cannot express the amazing feeling that happens when you get when you see a dancer grow as a dancer and person. This was an intense feeling for me at the end of this past season. I was looking at a group of my dancers, they were only 9, and I suddenly found myself getting choked up and thinking, when did they become so good? When did they become little ladies with sass and technique? You see these kids every day and work so closely with them and then one day you just realize, they are growing into beautiful dancers- it’s a proud teacher moment. And parents don’t think you are in the clear. Just as the dancers teach the teachers life lessons, the same is with parents. Just by observing parent interaction, I can tell you I have learned many different parenting styles. I have a decent idea for when that time comes in my life, just how I want to raise my children (and definitely how I would not want to).
In short, I’m just saying that I’m over the moon blessed and thankful to be able to have the best job. How many people can say that each and every day they wake up, they get to go and live their passion. They get to go and consume their days and evenings, talking, teaching and practicing their passion and love. Dance teachers get to do this. If you are a dancer or have a dancer in your family, be sure to thank your dance teacher and remember; they don’t do this for a fortune but instead because they truly, genuinely love what they are doing.
“Where you invest your love, you invest your life”