I’ve been teaching ballet for nine years now. It’s in turns frustrating, painful, upsetting, wonderful and incredibly rewarding. I still remember the first time I had to take a class. My own teacher is basically the Yoda of ballet and the person I look up to most professionally, and I knew I had big shoes to fill. When I got to the front of the room and all those little 3-year-old faces were looking up at me with expectation, I felt absolutely petrified.
I don’t often work with students under 10, and honestly teaching the babies is harder then any other age group. But the more I taught, the more confident I got, until two years later, when I went to Brisbane to do some teaching for a school up there so I could gain experience teaching larger class sizes.
On my first day of work I walked in to the middle of the end-of-year concert rehearsals. My first lesson was a class of about 25 Pre-Primary kids (4-5 years old). The student teacher assigned to me was sick that day and so I was faced with a small army of rabid-on-sugar-from-their-afternoon-snack children to organise on my own. Half-way through the class, one little girl couldn’t hold off going to the bathroom, and I was faced with a pond in the middle of the studio. I was torn- I needed to go and get someone to clean up the mess, but I didn’t want to leave the children unsupervised. In the end, I had to race out for about two minutes to call out an SOS. By the time I got back to the room, 25 pink-clad little girls were trying, unsuccessfully due to their legs being so small I might add, to leap over the giant puddle of urine.
Into the next class I went, where another teacher had taught a jazz routine to an over excited group of 9-year-olds. All I had to do was polish the routine. It was supposed to be easy. Half-way through two little girls decided to try a cartwheel lift. One little girl got dropped on her head, and when I rushed over to investigate, I found her top front tooth had come out of the gym and was stuck in her bottom lip. Lots of blood+screaming child+very angry mother+the second catastrophe in as many hours= teacher on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I’m pleased to report there were no other disasters that night.
Aside from the crazy memories, there have been thousands of beautiful moments. One of my favourite parts of this job is the people I meet and being a pivotal part of their lives. It’s a joy to watch my students as they grow and develop as not only dancers, but as people.
One of the girls that came for her first lesson with me when she was 11 is now dancing and living in New York. She was home for a quick visit a few weekends ago, and I had the immense pleasure of catching up with not one but three of my ex-students, who I am now lucky enough to count as friends.
I am so proud of the people they have become and the difficulties they have overcome. All three are inspiring, beautiful young women who are ready to go out and leave their mark on the world, and if I had even a tiny bit to do with that, I’m stoked.