Have you ever noticed how certain teachers have a magic about them, an energy that radiates through the room and invites every student into their world? Some students “get it” instantly; they are motivated to follow the teacher's guidance into the unknown. Others know there is something more there, but not quite sure what. In either case, everyone is engaged, alert, and suddenly curious.
I have been lucky enough to work with teachers like this. My modern dance professors at the University of Utah certainly had that “thing” all teachers hope to have. That magic. That light. That drive. Chatting in the hallways with classmates, I realized I wasn’t the only one amazed by our professors. I have always wanted to be like them, to teach dance in a way that is more meaningful, going beyond the steps into something much deeper. But what is that special “thing” these teachers have? What makes a class “great” and keeps people coming back for more?
I believe it has something to do with the soul of a class, or what my professors called the “why.”
“Why did you choose those exercises? Why are you dancing, or “aerial-ing”?” The why points to motivation: Why do we learn? Why do we teach? I’ll put it another way: What is it you are ACTUALLY teaching?
In my mind, it’s actually NOT dance, aerial arts, or conditioning. It is so much deeper than that. Back in those beautiful mountain view dance studios in Salt Lake City, I learned that:
The “why” is always greater than the “what.”
So why do people move? We move to feel connected to something greater than ourselves. We move to experience joy, sorrow, and all aspects of the human experience. We move to express ourselves, to share our spirit with others. We move to just be. It is so much more than memorizing steps.
We move because it means something to us, and it makes us feel alive.
The same is true in the aerial arts. The moment we finally conquer a new skill, or finish a performance, is a moment we feel truly connected and alive. We feel stronger, brighter, and more aware. We feel fulfilled, even for just a moment. So how do we bring that soul, that feeling of being alive, that “why” into our classes?
Like my dance professors taught me, the why goes deeper than learning the steps. After all, there are only so many things the human body can do. And every teacher will eventually run out of new moves to teach.
The why is about engaging curiosity and creativity...engaging the soul of the learner.
The why allows students take ownership of their learning, making it personally meaningful to them. And then they discover who they are. They have the opportunity to become leaders in their own lives. For some, a new conditioning challenge excites them. For others, figuring out how to work with a cumbersome costume is interesting. In either case, curiosity goes beyond reproducing what a teacher offers, and leads to exploration and invention.
We are pattern seekers and meaning makers. We like to solve puzzles and create. The puzzle might be figuring out how to do a pull-up after a pregnancy, or discovering a wild route into good ole “lion in a tree.” It might involve developing a new character, exploring a new apparatus, or building an entire performance piece using a towel as a prop. When you engage curiosity, you empower students to make discoveries for themselves. They become aware of their incredible potential. They seek it, find it, and own it.
They find the magic in themselves, and you get to watch the lights come on.
And that is the best kind of magic. The kind that is given away, and then reflected all around in the lives of others. So remember, when in doubt:
Capture your students’ curiosity. The why is more meaningful than the what.
Give them a logic puzzle, or a creative assignment. Acknowledge that soul, that spirit, that personal uniqueness they bring to the community. Because the real soul of a class is not in the teacher’s outgoing personality or intricate sequences. It’s in the teacher’s ability to see their students’ uniqueness, and challenge them to go deeper into their own personal why.
I wish you lots of curiosity, creativity, and “Aha!” moments in the New Year. Happy 2016, and Happy Flying!
Our authors include our Master Teacher Trainers as well as Born to Fly™ Certified Teachers.