Last night I had my first *new* class as a dance student, and it reminded me that I'm never NOT a student. I believe that it is worth it to always be a student, to always be learning and taking in new information. I'd forgotten how much I love those opportunities, and was very grateful last night.
A friend of mine is also doing her first class as a teacher, and her excitement last night was extremely palpable and infectious. It was fantastic to be there, and I hope I was a supportive student. I think what I find most difficult is that balance between a student who just listens and doesn't respond verbally and those times when student input is good for both the teacher and the other students. There have been times when I've observed some classes in which student feedback is not necessarily encouraged but a sense that the teacher is the only one who talks and describes what is going on. In other classes, I've seen teachers encouraging students to offer their observations, their ideas, and to make those leaps of understanding and share them with everyone there. A cooperative learning environment doesn't always work but sometimes it is exactly how everyone can benefit. Sometimes some of my spinning students will observe something I've never thought of, and when they contribute it is really fantastic. Other times, students might make a leap in thinking, but they've landed on a solution that will cause them trouble later. Then I have to gently show them another option and we can all see why some options are better than others.
When I'm an instructor, it seems easier to guide everyone's discussions so that we can all learn from one another. It's harder to know, especially in the beginning, when it is okay to volunteer an idea, an experience, a story, an observation, or even to ask a question to see if I'm headed down the right path when I'm a student. I can only hope that I'm gaining the wisdom to read the room better, each time. I can say that I had a blast last night, and I'm enjoying this class. I hope I can dance with these folks more often. Our instructor has some fantastic dance training, and I can already see the excellent ways in which she's bringing that to her new instruction style.
Today, I also had an opportunity to share some flexibility with some students that really encouraged them. Sometimes we get sick and have to heal, sometimes we have family obiligations, sometimes we have appointments come up that we couldn't foresee. One friend and I want to be dancing regularly together, and we still haven't had the opportunity. Another couple of friends and I were supposed to dance tonight, but things came up. In all these cases, I love that I have the chance to soothe their worries and assure them that my flexibility is specifically why I am teaching the way I do. I'm not a standard "classroom and schedule" kind of instructor. For some reason, I've been called to be a "mobile strike-unit" type of teacher. I'm reaching the students who cannot go to a weekly class in a classroom after a commute. I'm reaching students who cannot leave their homes because of small children. I'm reaching students who already have other obligations but would love to dance informally in a park, dreaming of doing more and other types of dance later.
And if you couldn't tell, I *love* being this type of teacher. I couldn't be happier.