Tales of a Sassy Southern Ballet Mama
So, let’s begin. Why am I writing this blog? Why me? And what am I up to?
Well, those are great questions. And ones I’ve been wrestling with for quite a few years as I’ve built up the nerve to do this.
For starters, my name is Leigh. I’m a Teacher. My mediums for teaching have most currently been through ballet and other forms of dance AND as a preschool teacher in a true ECC (early childhood center), but the bottom line is that at heart, I am a Teacher.
I‘ve been teaching since as long as I can remember. First to dolls and stuffed animals, then to various siblings, cousins and family members who put up with my shenanigans (love you!), then through Sunday School-type situations in the church I grew up in, which led to being active in their Summer Camps, which led to babysitting and nannying...all of which ultimately led me to my own CCD classroom during college and then into my own classroom post-college. And all of THAT, led me into teaching in a studio setting eventually, because I’ve also almost always danced.
This is to say that my specific brand of teaching dance is heavily inspired and colored by my time as a classroom teacher. Sometimes the two have overlapped, like that which was the last two years of my life, and sometimes they have not, but the two have never been truly separate. When people ask me to define what it is that I do as a dance teacher, the experience of being a classroom teacher is what I think of first. I really DO believe it gives me a certain edge or edginess in the studio. How could it not?
So what special magic ingredient does me being a classroom teacher bring to the table in the studio???
I’ve thought about this A LOT. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1) Academic teachers are ALWAYS students first-we love learning. We do not know how to be complacent. There’s always something new (or old!) to read, another direction to explore, another avenue for understanding. For my ballet world, this means I bring an extremely energetic and robust view of research, potential learning and teaching styles to the studio EVERY day...because I LOVE learning, I research constantly...I love bringing new research into the studio and sharing it with my students!;
2) No child left behind. I came up through this system and it has definitely marked my soul as an academic teacher, which means it bleeds through to my ballet students. Too often in the ballet world, students are pigeon-holed into these ridiculous stereotypes before they‘ve ever even been on their first date! This one is too tall, this one is too fat, this one has no back, this one has no feet. It’s excruciating to hear young students being talked about in this way and completely written off so early. “NO!,” I want to shout! Even if a dancer NEVER becomes a professional, if we treat and teach of each of them as if they will, we are instilling in them life-long lessons of self-respect and belief in what they have to offer that cannot be undone. Because I’m an educator, I bring (realistic) advocacy and individual approaches to each dancer I teach; and
3) Developmentally appropriate methods of teaching. If you understand the physical AND the socio-emotional side of an age group you are working with, you can teach not just the dancer, but the WHOLE person. It’s so strange to me that people who actually do not like children at all are in the studio everyday. How they can teach the art and not the student is beyond me, but it happens. And to my mind, it’s the student who suffers. Education has taught me, especially early childhood Ed: the relationship is first, everything else is secondary, and teaching ballet from this space makes a huge difference in how a roomful of dancers engage and learn.
So that‘s me as a teacher. There will be more about me as a Mama, a Southerner and a Sassy-Mouth later, but I thought we’d get the “Ballet” intro bits out of the way first!
Thanks for joining me For this ride!
Yours in Dance with Great Big Hugs,