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When it Feels Like All You Do is Run Out of Time

Geeky Ballerina looking frustrated

You know those phases when it feels like you are working like crazy and making zero progress? Yeah, I'm going through one of those right now. Not at work---my students are making great progress and I am so grateful to get to go to the studio each day. Right now it's the other stuff in life. (Like the dishwasher I might have broken last night, and the yard, and the dog, and, and, and . . . you get the idea.)

So yesterday I was putting a bunch of pressure on myself to make progress because I'm behind and I suddenly thought, "Behind what?" Seriously, what deadline was there really? I have a project that I want to introduce to the world so badly that I physically ache when I think about it (and it isn't to the standard I want it at yet) but does that make anything behind?

When I was 4, my mom signed me up for a recreational 6-week ballet class in the neighborhood and I hated it. I was 4 so who knows if this is accurate, but my memory is that the teacher was not at all in control of that situation, and the one combination I remember was definitely not appropriate for that age. So my mom didn't make me do another session.

When I was 6, she had me try creative dance. I hated that, too. My primary objections were with stretching (I'm naturally very tight and have never been dumb enough to "reach for the candy bar" when there very clearly is no candy bar) and the props. Instead of pretty fabric scarves to dance with, they had lightweight plastic scarves that reminded me of plastic grocery bags. I did not want to dance with trash. So I did the one year we signed up for and my mom let it go.

When I was 11, I saw a dance performance and asked to take jazz lessons and then---when I was 12---I asked to add a ballet class because it was required to join the performing team.

I took my first ballet class when I was 12. In some ways that really was behind. I was twice the age of the other kids in the class and I didn't know a plié from a grand jeté. But I was excited to learn and you can learn a lot really quickly when you are that old. I was only behind when you compared me to someone else. In reality, I was in the perfect place for me. (Eight weeks later they moved me to the 10-year-olds class and then put me with my own age group a couple of months after that.)

This is an important thing to remember when we teach. It is really easy to feel like we are behind. (Behind where we hoped to finish the year, behind where dancers who look about the same age on TikTok seem to be, behind where we remember kids this age being 10 years ago, and, and, and . . .)

You're not behind. Even if you follow a curriculum and the page says you should be at point X and you're barely at point C, you're not behind. Learning ballet is like following a treasure map, not running a race. As long as you've been following a well-structured plan and giving high-quality teaching, you are still following the map. Even better, if you're following a well-structured plan and giving high-quality teaching, your students are in the perfect place for them.

If you don't have a well-structured plan, you need one. I can help. If you're not sure the teaching you're offering is at the level you want it to be, join us in the New Ballet Teachers Facebook group. There are lots of amazingly talented teachers in that group and we are all committed to becoming even better. Yeah, Facebook is a toxic sludgeland but we've created a joyful and uplifting little island. Ooh! And islands are where the buried treasure is!

My metaphor just completed itself. This fills me with disproportionate (and very geeky) joy.


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