The responsibilities of an instructor.
I sometimes joke that as a belly dance teacher I wear many hats in varying capacities: physical therapist, counselor, drill sergeant, friend, lecturer, DJ, and trainer… and many more. Being able to be all of these things carries with it great responsibility.
As an instructor, I feel a great duty to my students. For many of them, I am one of their first belly dance teachers. This means that their first impressions of belly dance from here on out are in my hands. I am responsible for their education. I am responsible for showing them how to better take care of their bodies. I am responsible for not only making sure they execute moves correctly and safely, but also for making sure they know when they’re performing a movement well. I am responsible for critiquing them without damaging their self-esteem. I am responsible for ensuring that they retain the information I give them, and for sharing that information in a way that is entertaining and memorable. I am responsible for teaching them the history of belly dance (what we know of it), and that they know who has been influential in belly dance throughout the years. I am responsible for introducing them to Middle Eastern music, for making sure they know the core instruments and sounds. I am responsible for teaching them Middle Eastern rhythms. I am responsible for teaching them basic music theory, how to count music, how to find the downbeat, and how to be a percussionist with finger cymbals. I am responsible for giving my students the most accurate information I can about all aspects of this dance.
As an instructor, I must be an example. An exemplar. A model that my students can be proud to follow. When I became a teacher, I didn’t realize I had all of these duties, but the more I teach, the more dedicated I feel towards the education of my students.
I teach because I love sharing knowledge. I teach because I love that moment when a student finally executes a movement she’s been having trouble with for months. I teach because I love the light in my students’ eyes when I tell them about the history of tribal belly dance. I teach because I love seeing my students transform into more confident and self-assured human beings. I teach because I believe there are things that students of belly dance should know. I teach because I love it. I know I don’t have all the answers, but if you have a question I can’t answer, I could probably direct you to someone who can answer you.
I believe all teachers have a great responsibility to their students, and not all teachers feel the same. There are the teachers who teach because they want attention, they want to feel in control, they want to feel important, they want to boost their own egos. There are teachers who feel like they should, but don’t necessarily love sharing information and knowledge with their students. There are those who feel threatened by their own talented students. There are those who cut down other dancers and teachers in front of their students. These behaviors only hinder the development of newer dancers, setting poor examples for the belly dancers who will carry the torch when we have left the scene. Thankfully, there are many instructors out there who understand that they are mentors and guides, and that the education of their students is in their hands.
I teach because I feel I have a duty to give my students the knowledge that I have collected, because if I don’t synthesize my knowledge and offer it, what good is it doing for me alone?
As a teacher, we all have a responsibility and duty to our students. We must provide them with the best knowledge we have, and we also have a duty to continue our own training. We must be humble, ever gathering more information not only for ourselves, but for our students. As teachers, we are charged with handing down the legacy of this dance to our students. For someday, some of our students will be teachers as well, and we need to make sure that their knowledge of this dance has a sound and solid foundation, and that we instill the love of learning and growth and training in them.