After the tragic events of yet another school shooting, my heart is heavy. My heart is with the students, parents and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I stand connected to them, because I am a teacher. I teach the art of when music and movement marry. I am a dance teacher. Yes, I may not “teach” in the traditional sense, but I am still teaching.
I share the same qualities and love for my students that any classroom teacher has. Like most teachers today, I don’t wear one singular hat that reads “dance teacher.” My hat changes too from dance teacher, to mentor, to coach, to school tutor, to replacement parent, to counselor, and to companion at a moments notice. And I wear each hat with pride because like most teachers, I am helping to raise the next generation. Now, my dance teacher hat might have more sequins on it on than a school teachers, but dance teachers and school teacher are alike. We’re alike because I too, would use my body as a human shield to protect my students if a gunman were to enter our studio.
But we’re different in ways too. Dance teachers aren’t forced to plan their lessons around meeting the sometimes impractical standards of state testing, but instead dance teachers can spend their time letting students reach technical proficiency at a pace that works for them. Dance studios aren’t forced to put 35 students in an overcrowded classroom with not enough supplies to go around or a student teacher ratio that sets students up to be left behind. Dance teachers can work unfiltered. We can speak about society, God and use our time in the classroom to not just shield our students but lead them on a path to developing their own moral compass. Dance teaches life lessons.
I don’t envy the job of school teacher, but I do commend and respect them. They are faced with insurmountable obstacles. Because of those obstacles, change needs to happen. Change needs to be demanded. But, change takes time. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a nation to raise a good one. And that’s where the dance teacher steps in. Parents and school teachers can’t do it alone. Parents need to know that after school their children are safe. The educational learning and personal development shouldn’t stop when the bell rings. Dance continues.
After the fatal events of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland,Florida, the dance world lost one of it’s own and came together in solidarity, to remember Jamie Guttenberg. A nation of dance families wearing orange to remember their fallen dance sister. That’s why dance is important. That is why children should dance. The dance world will stand on the frontlines with school teachers, parents, and children to demand the change. Dance teachers will lead on a mission to help make good people.
Dance teachers teach life skills. Valuable life skills. Dance holds students accountable. Dance requires children to work together and communicate effectively. Dance teaches discipline and determination. Dance gives friendship. Dance gives love. Dance gives a sense of community and belonging. Dance gives purpose and value. Dance gives safety. Dance provides shelter. Dance provides family.
The harsh reality is putting a child in dance class alone can’t save the world. Dance teachers alone won’t end world hunger,or lead nations to total equality. Dance alone won’t stop gun violence. But the good news is, it will be apart of raising kids who will.
As a dance teacher, I pledge to help my students change the world. I pledge to do my part in changing the world for the better. I pledge to make my classroom and my community a place where students feel free to be themselves. I pledge to help my students practice equality and inclusion. I pledge to let dance teach, give and provide.
If you are a dance teacher, dancer, parent of a dancer, family member of dancer, fellow teacher or coach or just someone who cares about the future of our world, please take this pledge with me by signing your name below in the comments and sharing this pledge. Thank you.
Ali Buckley is the Director of Showcase Performing Arts Center in Hudson, NH. Showcase Performing Arts Center is proud to be a founding member of More Than Just Great Dancing™.