Back to Square One—Act One
There are 3 types of people in this world: Those who make things happen,
those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened!
Mary Kay Ash
Teachers are the lifeblood of the world. They are the doers and the ones who make things happen on many levels. Read that over and over again. Let’s face it— teachers make this world go ‘round. Don’t think so? Think again! Every person on this planet has felt a teacher’s impact. There is not one successful person who does not owe a big part of that success to a teacher. Conversely, bad teachers also have an effect, albeit negative. The point is that you are a special and powerful person, holding the keys that can impact the lives of your students, no matter what the student’s age may be!
That is what I would like for you to place in your mind. Every teacher is important, and few are as crucial to your students as YOU! But before you focus on where you are today, let’s go back to where you began. Remember, you were once a student, too. I think that this is one of the best parts of being a teacher—you never stop learning. Before you taught, you began at some point, just a rank beginner. Do you remember?
Let’s journey back and think about the first time you taught. Then go back even further and think about your first dance lesson. WOW, I can remember my first dance course, a tap class that I had was taking with my cousins. I don’t really remember much about the content, but I do remember that I just loved to move to music. Being able to make sounds with my feet was incredible. I also remember my teacher as a kind and giving person who helped me develop my love of dance. After several years, I stopped taking dance lessons and became very involved in sports, which I still love very much to this day, especially football! But I was drawn back into dance, over and over again. In high school, I was the dancing man, the one everyone wanted to dance with. I was in my high school musical, taught the football team the latest dance moves and performed in Summer Theater. When I told my parents I was leaving college during my freshman year to pursue a career in dance, they supported me wholeheartedly. Lucky me! I dove in head first and have never looked back. It is true what they say: You don’t choose dance—dance chooses you!
After two years of intense training I began to “sub” and assist in classes. My teacher, Mikki Williams, pushed me, believed in me and promoted me to everyone she knew. I had the honor of assisting Charles Kelley at various dance conventions, and loved working with teachers who were always so eager to learn and full of advice. Then I struck gold: I got my first job. It was an eight-week TV show in Florida, where the choreographer was none other than my future wife, Angela! After falling in love, we decided to put together our own act, one that would feature partner work with different styles of dance. We had the privilege of touring around the world for more than twelve years and taught master classes in more than twenty-five countries! One thing we noticed was that when we taught, it made us better dancers. We could hear the corrections that we were giving to others and that would reinforce our own corrections.
That is when it all started to click. We bought our studio and were ready for the next phase. But we still had a lot to learn about teaching and what it is to be a great teacher—especially when it came to teaching children. Through the years since then, I have learned a lot about many things, including myself! I am so grateful and honored to be part of a wonderful fraternity of dance teachers.
This chapter is about your beginning. It’s about reflecting on where you have come from. From time to time, by going back, you can and will move forward. If you are at a plateau, going back can get you to the next phase.
OK, now it is your turn!
I would like for you to think about where you started and where you are today. Think about where you would like to go as a teacher. If you want to take the next step in your development as a dance teacher, it is important to reflect on where you have come from and harness all of the wonderful knowledge, life lessons and experience you have in your own personal tool chest. Sharing these important tools with yourself will keep you grounded and reset your all-important vision.
The key to moving forward is in your hands!
Where you are today and where you will be a year from now is all about your thought process and how you act upon those thoughts. Recall how you felt when you first started to teach—do you remember? If it has been awhile, think back. Think of your dreams, aspirations, goals and more! Now fast-forward to where you are today.
How has it worked out for you? If you are not where you want to be, you can change it—if you want to. You can improve it—if you want to. Believe me, I had plenty of setbacks. I could easily have retreated after the first setback, but I did not. If you persevere, you will keep finding new people who will help you along the way. Has that happened to you? If not, keep looking! Tell everyone you meet about your passion for teaching. The right people will be drawn to you. The right employers, fellow teachers and business opportunities will come your way—when you have your mind in the right place. Think not? Then don’t be surprised when you get more of what you are already receiving!
Here are some BIG questions to ask yourself:
Do you believe in yourself as a dance teacher?
Are you the best you can be?
Are you frustrated and feel like you are stuck?
Are you happy with how you teach and what you are giving your students?
OK, if not, everything is perfect, and that is all right. However, most of us have areas that we need to evaluate and analyze so that we can decide how to make the changes to improve our lives.
First, you need to have the right mindset. When you focus on all of the good things that you are creating, you will see the good and how to attract more of it into your life. Instead of focusing on the bad, focus on the excitement you felt when you first started teaching. The newness you savored, the uncertainty, the thrill of it all, and how your dreams and goals were right in front of you for the taking. If you have been teaching for awhile, you will want to block out the negativity that can so easily cloud your thoughts—if you haven’t made that conscious effort already to guard against these thoughts. You must work at this. Try it for a month, then for two, then for six and then make it a lifetime habit.
Keep in mind that the thoughts you focus on will determine who you are! If you think about how this employer or student did you wrong, you may well become bitter. If you think about how horribly the studio owner treats you, you may grow disillusioned. On the other hand, if you think about how wonderfully lucky you are to be a teacher you will see all that is good. This keeps you in a good place mentally. Look, not everything will be perfect all the time. What is in life? After personally being a dance teacher for twenty-six years, I can tell you this: I remember the good—and not so good—times with gratitude for the lessons learned! Stay true to yourself, and you will attract what you seek.