So I guess my blog yesterday created some stir... great! I've had that issue on my mind for a long time, and I figured it was time to write how I felt about it... cause that's what I do in my blog!
It also struck up some nice emails and messages from some of my former students and parents who have passed through my studio in the past 6 years. Mostly from students who danced for me and then graduated high school and moved on, or even just stopped dancing to pursue other things.
I think it must be hard for teenagers when they get old enough to know that they don't want to pursue dance in their lives, or just can't any more, but they still love it. A lot of students walk away from dance and maybe are too scared to tell their teachers in fear or resentment or anger. That has happened to me in the past, but I am also proud to be able to say that I have great relationships with some of my former students, even if it took them a few years to know that they could always come back to my studio. Some of them stopped dancing and I didn't hear right away from them, but I never stopped trying to stay connected with them and was always very open to them coming to visit or even returning.
I learned once at a teachers conference that I should be more prone to advertising to my the clients what these former students are doing. Setting up a board in your lobby with pictures and little bios of what some of your former students are up to, even if it's non-dance related. You can post kind letters or cards you receive from them, or even ask them to write a little bit about their experience at your studio. Even if they don't pursue dance for their career, they are probably keeping some aspect of what you taught them in their lives. Sure we could all post all over our studio walls the list of music videos our students have been in, or prestigious dance programs they now attend, but was that your only goal as their teacher/mentor?
I have one former Senior student, Meghan, who is now at Western University and is part of their International Championship Cheerleading Team. It makes me proud to know that she is keeping active at University, and has continued with something competitive that fulfills her in a way that maybe just reading text books does not. I went and watched her cheer at a game her first year, and she was as happy to see me there as I was to see her. Another one of my former Senior students, Gabby, is always back at my studio, sub-teaching when needed, and staying active in the dance community. She takes classes when she can, and goes to as many shows as possible downtown, and she even at one time was running her own dance Company. She contacted me to rent studio time/space in the summer, and I was more than happy to let her use the studio at will without charge, so that she could pursue something she loved.
I have a small Lyrical group this year for competition that is performing to the Simon & Garfunkel classic "Old Friends". I set up the dance around a park bench on stage, and the 6 girls each represent their older selves looking back at the memories they had with their friends when they were younger. The dance is actually very touching, which wasn't my original intent. I was trying to be creative and it turned into something more than even I had anticipated. These six young students probably won't get as emotionally attached to this piece as others might watching it, but hopefully they will one day. Maybe at our 25th Anniversary Show they will look back at this dance as one of the wonderful memories they had at the studio and with each other. Kind of a full circle moment there! I hope this year when any of my former students come and watch our Recital or a competition, they feel that this dance encompasses all those same feelings they have towards dance, their dance studio and the memories we all shared.
The reality is that all of our students will eventually grow up and leave our studios. It is way too easy to assume that we will stay in contact with all of them and have them be as big a part of our lives as they were while they were at our studio. I know now as an adult that I have a lot of fond memories of my "dance days" and all the teachers I had along the way. I remember fun times at the studio, sleepovers, travelling together... and none of those memories are attached to the trophies I won back then, that are now in a dumpster somewhere!
Your studio history should be a big deal to you, and you should always be proud of it. I never take down old pictures at the studio or on my website, as I don't ever want to erase those memories for myself or those kids. We just keep adding new pictures and new memories!
As great as it is to have a former student in a movie, I really hope that one of them becomes a chiropractor soon... so that I can get cheap adjustments! That's the least you could do for your 'old' teacher!!!