by Sandi Duncan
It’s the time of year when we watch our graduating seniors eagerly preparing to move on from the life they’ve known within our studio walls. As their high school years come to a close, we see their excitement as college acceptance letters pour in and they attend proms and graduations. For students and their families alike, it’s a time of celebration and joy.
But what about the dance teachers and studio owners left behind? For many of us, this time is heartbreaking—and we experience the same sense of loss every single June. Perhaps that’s why I find myself silently uttering the line from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “Why you want to leave me?”
It is an honor and pleasure to watch our students grow into successful human beings. Many of these kids now heading off into the world first came to the studio as preschoolers. Over the years, we watched their growth, struggles, joys, and pains. We may even timidly admit that we played a small role in shaping their lives, especially the lives of those kids who spend more time with their studio family than their true family. So again, I selfishly think, “Why you want to leave me?”
“Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful. And believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.” —Misty Copeland
On a challenging day at the studio, I found myself wondering, should I be investing so much of myself in these students who eventually must fly from the nest? The thought startled me. Yet we all know how gut-wrenching it is to watch our birdies fly so freely into their futures, while we remain at the studio cultivating new students—who also, eventually, will say farewell.
We invest our hearts, souls, and time in our studio kids, often sacrificing time with our own families to do so. We have hopes and dreams for our students. We may even lose ourselves in their successes as dancers and attach our own sense of achievement to theirs. Many of these students become very dear to us; as each spring approaches, so do thoughts of saying goodbye.
So what should we do to protect our hearts? Nothing!
Wait, no—that’s not quite the right answer. Here’s what I’ve come to realize: I can dig in deeper, continue to open my heart, and keep investing love, support, and encouragement in my students.
At the same time, I need to invest just as much in my own life as I do in theirs.
I will continue to shed a tear when my students return home from college on that first weekend and make a beeline to the studio to say how much they miss us. I will continue to follow them on their life journeys, celebrating their successes and watching their growth. And I know, without a doubt, that yes, the investment is worth every bit of the energy I put into it—because my studio kids make my life so much better with their presence.
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.