It’s September—the New Year of the dance studio industry. Just as January 1 motivates people to exercise more or curb bad habits, anything seems possible at the start of the new studio year.
This year, teachers everywhere vow, we’ll be sticklers about the dress code. We’ll draw up a lesson plan, watch our tone, dial down the drama, and keep our cool. But dance educators seeking a transformative classroom cleanse face just as hard a slog as all those people who find themselves back on the couch eating chips and salsa by mid-February.
Change is tough, especially if you’ve been teaching for decades, like I have. But it’s not impossible. Let me explain.
One of my major classroom challenges used to be ending on time. Like all experienced teachers, I have an internal clock that keeps me moving from one segment of class to the next. This clock works just fine. But if I saw the students were riiight there, just at the edge of understanding, I wouldn’t stop. Of course, once you go five or 10 minutes over, the next class can’t possibly start on time (unless you shortchange someone, and then you have two sets of angry parents). You’re spiraling, and there is no escape.
Two years ago, I decided to tackle this delinquency. I started setting my phone’s alarm to ring five minutes before the scheduled end of each class. This will get us out the door on time, I thought. The alarm would ring, I’d hit the phone, but, well, we were always riiight there.
The year ended—I was no better. But a studio owner once told me that it takes three years for people to adapt to and accept change, so the following September I tried again. Do you know what? It became a bit easier to use those five minutes to slow down and stop. Happily, the habit stuck.
So as we head into this new studio year, keep those ambitious plans. And if they don’t all work out, give yourself a break rather than giving up. Remember—there will always be another new year. —Karen White
DSL associate editor Karen White, a former newspaper reporter and freelance writer, has taught dance in private studios and choreographed musicals since age 17 and has no plans to stop.