The Teachers in My Village
It takes a village to raise a child, the proverb says. As I type these words, it’s the last week of school—recitals over, summer stretching ahead—but when they appear in print, it will be August and time to gear up for the fall. At both times in the year, my mind dwells on my village, and especially on the teachers.
These teachers—the first-grade teacher whose classroom is a peaceful oasis of community and happy learning. The modern dance teacher who taught my daughter about choreography and improvisation, curves and straight lines, and nine ways to skip—all while making class feel like playtime. The preschool teacher so wise in the ways of young children that we parents ask ourselves in tough situations, “WWDD?” (“What would Denise do?”). The gymnastics coach with a love for silly jokes and the focus of a priestess, whose classes satisfy my girl’s thirst for difficulty. The retired teacher—my mother-in-law—who handles her grandchildren with the unflappable aplomb of experience.
As a parent, I find it humbling to watch these skilled teachers in action. It’s also an opportunity to learn from the pros. Here’s what I notice: they enjoy kids and find them interesting. They understand child development. They have strategies for getting cooperation without yelling or shaming. They look kids in the eyes and listen to them. They are playful. They remain consistently patient, kind, and calm, even when they probably don’t feel like it. Their boundaries are clear.
These teachers surely get tired, frustrated, and annoyed, just as I do. Yet they demonstrate that we adults have the capacity to let those feelings go. To this often anxious, stressed-out mom, it’s inspiring.
Shepherding a human being from infancy to independence is not an easy journey. But these teachers make me feel like I’m not alone on the road. Thank you, village—I’m not sure I could do it without you. —Tamsin Nutter
DSL associate editor Tamsin Nutter lives in Berkeley, California. Formerly a marketing writer at MoMA in NYC, she trained at Vassar College and The Ailey School and danced with Regina Nejman & Company and others.
New Season’s Greetings
This is the time of year when we welcome students back into the dance studio. The new school season is also an apt time to reflect, as Tamsin does above, on the value of teachers—and, I would add, support staff.
To that end, among the stories in this issue designed to help you make the most of the new season, you’ll find one about best practices for teacher evaluation, compensation, and pay increases, and another about studio owners who delegate tasks and programs—social media and marketing, children’s birthday parties, preschool programs, staff recognition, and more—to paid support staff positions.
The new season is also a timely opportunity for me to introduce new magazine staff to you. Heather Turbeville joined the DSL team earlier this year as copy editor; she also edits our “College Close-Ups” department. Heather has an MFA in creative writing and literature and brings to the magazine years of copy editing experience and a love of dance. As a child, she took ballet and modern dance classes before detouring into cheerleading and dancing with her high school’s marching band; for the past eight years, she has been studying belly dancing.
Starting this month you’ll also find a fresh face and voice in the “2 Tips” section of the magazine, where writer and hip-hop artist Samara Atkins takes the reins of the hip-hop column. A native of Oakland, California, who studied print journalism and dance at Howard University in Washington, DC, Samara has been dancing since 1992. She teaches at Destiny Arts Center, Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, and In the Groove Studios in the San Francisco Bay Area and has taught workshops in Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam through All the Way Live Foundation, which uses dance to connect with at-risk youth in marginalized communities.
Samara is also co-founder and co-artistic director of the multiethnic, all-female, mixed-genre dance company Mix’d Ingrdnts. Check out a short video feature from PBS Newshour’s website last November about how her company is “shaking up Oakland’s street dancing scene”. Then get ready, and get reading, to shake up your studio’s scene. —Thom Watson
DSL editor in chief Thom Watson is a San Francisco Bay Area–based aficionado of ballet, contemporary, and folk dance. He has also been an internet and social media executive and a political columnist.