I was looking through a blog I kept from back in 2008 where I talked a bit about my pole classes. It was really a blast from the past, reading and remembering all the learning experiences I had in the studio, on the pole, and with the women who I built friendships with in class.
For most of my fledging pole career, I was with the same teacher and class for a very long time and there was a comfort in that. I knew them, they knew me; we all were aware of each other’s abilities and challenges. There was a trust built there. And that rapport is what kept me coming back: there was a sense of familiarity. My teacher could gauge my progress and see what I had started with, how much I had learned. She knew what was difficult for me and what I was working on. She could give me things to try that were just challenging enough to push me without being discouraging.
When I eventually left that class and went exploring elsewhere, it was a real shock to the system. I got the sideways “who are you?” looks from other students in class. People taught me who never knew my name, and had no idea what I was working on. I didn’t have any sense of continuity to my progress; I was taking drop-in classes everywhere and classes were so much larger than I was used to. I started feeling lost, and I didn’t have an emotional anchor. I was surrounded by a dizzying sense of “new” all the time, and didn’t have anyone who knew who I really was. I was frustrated that no one seemed to care.
It felt a little bit like the way it does when you start somewhere new– a job, a move, a school. All you want is for someone who knows you to call you up for a coffee and to have a conversation where you can be relaxed and be yourself, because this person knows you for who you are. And how funny to be reminded of all these feelings, now that I am on the other side and my experiences as a teacher color how I interpret what I read in that old journal from just a few years ago.
I see a lot of professionalism in pole today. I see students referred to as “clients”, and it’s great that there is that business model in place. I think that for businesses to succeed, studio owners need to make sure that they are accountable for their bottom line. They should have marketing strategies in place, understand how to manage teachers, have a process for customer grievances and a support network for their staff. But in all this, teachers, owners, everyone– we need to remember the student, and the person. Not just the “client.”
I am a firm believer that everyone can enjoy pole dance. That it can be fun for all of us, no matter what our fitness level is going into it, how often we do it, or how little or how much improvement we see. That strong students, coordinated students, and flexible students should get just as much attention as those who are NOT strong. NOT coordinated. NOT flexible. That every student can walk away from class feeling accomplished, challenged, and fulfilled by the movement that they just spent hard-earned money and time on. That no matter whether or not someone is “serious” about training or competing, they should still get as much attention as everyone else.
I’ve said before that if you foster a respectful relationship with each student in your class, and give of your time to everyone equally without favoritism, then students will see that they don’t have to be “good,” or put pressure themselves, to have fun and feel worthwhile. And that kind of positivity spreads. A repeat student is not just a retained client. A repeat student is not just a supporter of your studio. A student is not just someone who is a generator for good reviews or publicity. As Lady Gaga said, sometimes you have to put your trophies away. You should never rest on our laurels as a teacher. No matter how tired you are, how much you may want to go home, how crappy of a day you had, or the fight you just had with whoever, you should still always try your best as an instructor. Because while it may be “just another class” for you to teach, that could be the one hour that student has to truly forget about their horrible day. And they’re paying.
A student is a person, who is trying very hard to learn, and trying very hard to explore a genre of movement that is intimidating, scary, and difficult. And the support between teacher and student should always go both ways. As a teacher, you have a responsibility to ALL your students to encourage and cheer whether or not you see “commitment”, “talent”, or “ability”. As a teacher, what right do you have to judge potential or effort from anyone?
Re-reading that blog entry was like remembering all the student insecurities that I have ever had and realizing that I can address them better now that I am able to make an impact in my student’s lives, every time they walk into class. To try harder to make sure that every student leaves class with a smile on their face. To try harder to make these people feel good about themselves, challenge themselves, make them realize that they are more capable then they thought and they don’t have to be perfect. Because, really, that’s what I’m getting paid for.
Monday’s post: Real Talk: Flexibility…