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.

 

Comments: 13

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I love your dedication and enthusiasm as a teacher and dancer!

When I first started my belly dancing classes, I felt a huge wave of excitement because I was being taught by someone that had been dancing for fifteen years. They should know just about everything, right?

Yeah, dead wrong.

She was a great teacher, but all she really taught me was posture. Her attitude sucked though. She was 34, acting like a 17 year old. She constantly spent money on overly priced things and that made me wonder where my money was REALLY going. She was constantly complaining about not being able to pay bills, but she boasted about how the operators for Victoria Secret knew her by name.

On top of that, she always said that she can’t stand dancers that use their sexuality for dances, and yet when she would choose music, she would call it sexy.

And when I would talk about Rachel Brice, her answers would always start with “I don’t know why everyone loves her. All she does is basic moves in her dance.” Uhm… Don’t we ALL do basic stuff in our dances? I mean, those ARE the root of our movements, right? It’s really the fact that she makes everything look amazing with her costume. She has presence on the stage. I’d rather see someone that has superb presence do basic stuff than a dancer that has no presence and does advanced movements.

On top of that, even more, she started a pole dancing class. Her belly dance classes started failing. She wasn’t paying enough attention to them and would actually jump start her way to the other room when our class was about to end. I knew then that I needed someone else… Namely myself.

I am really one of the ONLY tribal instructors here. I have only been dancing for two years, but I tell ALL of my students “I only know the basics. I know them well enough to teach you. But don’t feel discouraged or duped because all dances start with the basics. It’s how YOU want to turn those basics into a choreography.”

Despite that I’m an amateur, I have actually gotten people to book me for performances due to presence and a sensitivity to musical emotion on stage. ALL of my performances are improv. I haven’t done a choreography unless I’m with another person. It feels better to move with the music.

I also enjoy laying guidelines for improvisational dances. I enjoy watching my students drop their guard while dancing and watch the emotion flow from them. It’s like a slight voyeuristic high. I tell them over and over that it takes time to learn to drop your guard around people. Especially around people that you don’t know. If they were to ever start dancing professionally and on stage, that they would need to drop their guard and just let it flow out. Dance is a very VERY intimate thing.

Love you blog. Keep those positive thoughts coming!

-Xi’Balba-

 

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I love this post, and I’m going to be sharing it all over the internet!

 

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[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Asharah, Sabrina Bellydancer. Sabrina Bellydancer said: Great description RT @kiaroskuro New post on ye olde bloggy blog. On being a belly dance teacher: http://bit.ly/dPOEXX […]

 

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Just fell in love with you again and anew.

 

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This is fantastic– I’m sharing it on my FB!!
–Razia

 

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You are such an inspiration, a leader, someone who is able to reach the core of things and speak with clarity. Not to mention a fantastic dancer. You are a rare gem the belly dance community is blessed to have. Thank you….

 

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Once again you’ve nailed it. Thnak you for putting into words what I never seem quite able to explain to people.
And also many thanks for taking your knowledge-sharing duties seriously enough to make a DVD – you’re constantly pushing, challenging, encouraging and improving my dance and my teaching even though I’m on the other side of the world (in New Zealand).

 

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Beautifully said!

 

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I am a very, very new student to bellydance, but I really like this because I have definitely come across teachers, in my very limited exposure to this dance, that complain about having to teach at all– they only do teaching so they can also do other things.

I really like that you WANT to pass off your knowledge…. It’s not just a secondary thing for you, you take it seriously. Which makes people like me take bellydance more seriously!

 

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Best article on instruction…EVER…

I shared it with my students and other teachers I know – so well said!

 

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[…] read this great post on Asharah’s blog on the responsibilities of an instructor.  I was going to write about this myself, but she’s done it so well, there doesn’t […]

 

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everything you said here makes sense, and I am glad to see that you get it. I hope all is well with you. If you teach a solo workshop, I would love to attend.

 

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