February 18, 2015

Teacher Ballerina

My third year of teaching was a tough year. By the time May arrived, I was simply exhausted both professionally and personally. So, one of my teaching buddies, Lisa, suggested I take the summer and become "someone else". She told me to be a runner, a dancer, a reader, a sunbather...anything to refresh and get my mind off of teaching. She told me not to open my laptop and not to do any work until preplanning. Did I think she was crazy? Sure. Did I know she was right? Definitely. Yes, teaching was my calling and an important part of who I was, but I needed a complete break to recharge.

So I signed up for ballet classes. I took some ballet growing up. I could remember feet positions, how to plie, how to point my foot, and that I shouldn't hang upside down on the barre. But that was about it. So, I threw myself into a few hours of beginning ballet work a week and I loved it. I haven't stopped since then. Now, for the last four years, on every Monday and Thursday night, I put on some tights, pin my hair into a bun, and head downtown to my dance studio. 

On Mondays, I often pack some papers to grade during a break in classes!

The truth is, I love being a ballerina, even if it's only for four hours a week. For me, ballet is just the right mental and physical challenge. I can work hard to improve, without the pressure of becoming a professional. I get to be an artist. I even study the art on my own time so that I can learn and be better. It's so exhilarating to be the student rather than the teacher. And for a few blissful hours a week, my usually racing mind is completely consumed by my body: the motions, the steps, and the art. 

Since you've become a teacher, have you been able to be a student? 

Although I know that most teachers do not have the precious hours in their week to become a student of something, I urge you to consider it. It's easier for me because I don't have a husband and children to care for yet, but even in the midst of working a part time job on top of teaching last year, this was one part of my life that I just knew I could not give up. 

So how has being a student in the studio impacted me as a teacher in the classroom?
  • I've reminded myself of what it feels like to be a struggling student. I have never been very gifted in athletics, so ballet is something I have to work extremely hard at. It's given me more compassion with kids who feel frustrated that they can't get something "right". 
  • I've reminded myself of what it feels like to have triumphs. This reminds me to make sure my students are triumphing in the classroom.
  • I've learned more about giving effective feedback and I've learned about how it feels to receive feedback. 
  • I am able to share an important part of my story, that has nothing to do with our classroom, with my students. Ballet gives me a starting point for simple relationship building moments. "You tripped and fell and now you feel embarrassed? Would you believe that I fell in ballet class last night? I feel ya, man! You alright?" "I know you don't want to do that again, but it's going to make you stronger and better. My ballet teacher often makes me repeat things over and over until I get it right. And it feels SO GOOD when I do!" (Now, I don't talk about ballet every day, but you can see how easy it is to connect with students through your own student experiences.)
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed reading my post. I'd love to hear if you have a similar experience! 


  1. Hey Stephanie! I got your order form for your new blog design and I'm so excited to work with you! Only one problem, you didn't leave a email address! Please email me at alexis@laugheatlearn.com so we can chat. :)

  2. I knew I forgot something! Emailing you now!