Teacher Tune-Up | The Feeling Is Mutual

by Sandi Duncan

“Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space,” writes Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, author of the 2008 book My Stroke of Insight. Read that request again—paying attention to it could improve the emotional outlook of your entire studio.

If you’re experiencing a lot of negative energy at your studio, schedule an attitude-adjustment “mental meeting” with yourself. Think about the energy and emotions you notice in the people around you. Then think about the energy and emotions you share with them. Look around—and look inside. You may notice that the feelings are mutual.

If so, it’s time to work on cultivating the positive energy that you want to give to the world and get back. Remember, you can choose how you approach everything you do. You have control over your attitude and your response to any situation, whether it’s a challenge or a cause for celebration.

Consider William Walker Atkinson’s “law of attraction” theory, which asserts that like attracts like: focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. Want to attract more positive experiences? Then focus on positivity, and surround yourself with upbeat people, situations, and opportunities.

At times, we all may feel that our students are draining us dry emotionally. But instead of grumbling about noncommitted, rude, self-serving, ungrateful students, ask yourself:

  • What is my attitude when I enter my studio? Do I feel resentful and negative?
  • Do I come to class believing that my students are rude and ungrateful?
  • Do I expect students to miss class and rehearsal because I think they are not committed?

If you feel this way, it’s likely your students will too. The feelings will be mutual.

Ready to start shifting the atmosphere in your studio from negative to positive? Try these simple exercises:

  • Before entering class, check in with your own energy and attitude. Close your eyes and envision what you want the class to be. See the energy. Feel it. Expect it. Take a deep breath and enter the room with the same attitude you want from your students.
  • Be aware of your language patterns. If you approach students with negative
    phrasing—“You always have such low energy,” “You never apply my corrections”—you’re likely to get a low-energy response. But if you approach them with positive, realistic, and encouraging phrasing—“OK dancers, I know you have even more energy to give!” or “How about if we approach it this way?”—you may see less tension and more receptive behavior.
  • Schedule a day at the studio for building trust. If your team dancers are overly competitive with one another and consistently hurt one another emotionally, talk with them about the power of trust. Let them voice their opinions on trust and discuss how they can empower one another to help the team grow stronger.
  • Get the studio involved with a community charity, such as an annual benefit event. Once you start giving back to others, the positive emotions you and your students and families will feel will lead to more trust, compassion, and kindness at the studio.

Photo by Kimi Duncan

Be honest with yourself. If you want to improve the energy around you, start by improving your energy. Positive change begins with a tiny shift—and with taking responsibility for the energy you bring into your space.


Sandi Duncan is a senior staffer at Melissa Hoffman Dance Center. A certified life coach, she conducts team-building seminars and workshops for studios nationwide.