For this I believe
I believe in my power as a teacher to teach a young mind to love dance by sharing my passion with sincerity. I teach Indian classical dance to children in the San Francisco Bay area. When I start class, I scan the faces for signs of boredom, impishness and interest. From that moment, every minute is an elaborate orchestration played out inside my mind.
My eyes are focussed on examining movement in a surgically precise fashion. My silent conclusion – She lets her elbows dip DOWN when the arm extends, and her chin STILL droops downward. Where do I start? “Hmm…It’s not Halloween yet, to be looking scary in dance class”. A quizzical look. “When you dip your chin downward, and look at me from under your eyebrows, you look scary”, I say. A big smile from her, letting me continue. “Can YOU be my dance teacher for a moment?” A triumphant smile as she stands in front of me. I let my elbow dip DOWN as my arm extends. I get back into position for a second time, extending my arm, without dipping my elbow. “Which looked better? YOU tell me”. Her arm is up in the air – “I know. Your elbow was straight the second time, and I liked that better”, she says with a shy smile, ready to be a student again to try the movement once more. A silent cheer fills my mind. She does not have to fill books about why she likes dance class. I see the love in her eyes, her stance, and in her trusting look towards me. And, right there, I have won an infinitesimally small victory towards teaching a young mind to revel in precise movement.
If my words do not reach out to her, then too, I will taste defeat. Her stance will be defiant, her eyes downcast, and her mind will shut down for the rest of the class. When that happens, I make sure to draw her into loving dance the next time around.
I might start the next class by saying – “I know someone who loves strawberries for snack, and look at what I’ve brought today”. Or, “I was practicing this morning, and I was confused. I want to learn from one of you about how to extend my arm the right way”.
Each phrase designed to help her love dance. Each class a little journey with us twirling, leaping and stamping our way into a realm where teacher and student can talk, laugh, cry and challenge ourselves through dancing.
Years on, if a young adult dancer practices for several hours chasing that elusive goal of perfection, then, the drum roll for me can start. Her twirls and leaps designed to look effortless, along with the stamping of her feet, will cheer me on as I walk in to teach my next class. I believe in the transforming power of teacher-student relationships.
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