What My Hardest Day Teaching Taught Me About Dance

Teachers gonna teach, but that shizz is hard (can I get an Amen?). If you ask any teacher to tell you about a memorable day in their classroom, you'd likely get an array of different responses; some hilarious, some cringe worthy, and some super heartfelt.

I've had all of those experiences, but today I wanted to share one of the heartfelt variety. This is a story about an experience I had late last year during my annual Nutcracker Dance Camp. Typically, holiday camps are short, sweet, and full of sugar plums and tutus. And this camp was, but it also gave me a super hard day (and important lesson) about why teachers do the work we do.

A particular student of mine, who I'd had in classes and camps for a few years, was having a really rough week. She had some family things going on at home, some of which I was aware of, and so I was aware of the fact that she was feeling a little extra raw.

Right before one of our craft times, towards the end of a rehearsal of our choreography, I noticed this student becoming withdrawn and emotional. I quietly asked her if she would like to either be my helper, or sit down and rest, and she chose to sit down and rest. Over the next 10 minutes or so, she cried and cried, inconsolable by friends and myself.

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While the rest of my students headed in to do their craft, I talked with my student, and while she was too upset to really talk, I knew that she just needed someone next to her. We hugged for a long time, and I encouraged her to breathe and told her she was safe and loved.

Her mom came a little while later and my student took the rest of the day to rest and soak up the love from her family, but for the good 5 minutes that this little one needed a hug (and my heart was breaking wondering how I could help, and what on Earth could be causing her so much pain), I realized that while dance is the medium through which I reach people, THIS, this hugging, connecting, and loving, was really the work I was doing.

I completely believe we're put on this Earth to connect with others. To reach out and dance, talk, laugh, and communicate with others. Creating connections and shared experiences through dance is what I love doing, and hope to do within my work. While I felt mostly helpless in this particular situation, and initially frustrated that my lesson plans and schedule was being thrown off track, I was quick to see this situation for what it really was: a reminder that my work isn't about keeping kids on a schedule, making sure they perform, or that they report back to their parents that they had a good time at dance camp, my work is about connecting to my students and being there when they need me.

It was a rough and emotional day. I left the studio feeling empty and tired, but I'm so grateful for the lesson, the experience, and the reminder that my work is good work, and I'm in a powerful position to help each and every person who comes into my classroom.