I am debating whether or not I will use, “Those Who Can’t Do, Teach?” as the title to this post: it has such a negative vibe to it. Also, there are a lot of people out there who do both, especially in the arts where the doing often doesn’t pay as consistently as the teaching. The fact that I am practically half way through a hoop dance teacher training program is wonderful and exciting news and that is what I really want to share with you all.
I think my personal path to signing up for teacher training, however, is a result of moving away from using performance to justify my hoop dance practice (the “doing”) and toward creating another kind of publicly-shared hoop experience for myself (the “teaching”).
You see, I never considered myself to be a natural born performer. I was quite shy as a youngster, and never really felt drawn to life on the stage. But, I have always loved the act of dancing and I always wanted to be a dancer. It wasn’t until I started Middle Eastern, Romany trail and Tribal Fusion dance in my twenties and thirties that I started to perform. I am so grateful for those opportunities, but the reason why I enjoyed them so much was not so much for the tremendously uncontrollable bout of nerves before going on stage (yikes!), nor for the audience’s adoration, but for the comraderie with my fellow dancers, the creating of costumes, and the feeling that I accomplished something I’d never thought I’d do–dance in front of the stark eyeballs of many spectators. There was a tremendous sense of pride and adrenaline after a show, and the feeling I accomplished something significant and totally uncharacteristic of me.
Then I learned that stage fright, in essence, is the poisoning of one’s self with adrenaline.
Despite me trying to identify myself as a performer, over the years my my nerves never really settled, and they seemed to be worse when I did hoop performances, perhaps because there was a prop involved, and that prop was often on fire. The last few times I performed with my hoop, I felt the satisfaction that came post-show didn’t outweigh the anxiety I felt prior. After one recent performance I had a full on panic attack! I was wondering what was going on with me.
I realized that hoop performing for me was not so much the song of my soul, but method of filling a hole in my ego. I no longer felt the need to prove myself, and really this proving was only to myself and not others, although the self and others for me got quite mixed. Now, that’s not to say I will never perform with my hoop ever again, but I want to move away from it being the purpose behind what I do, thereby lessening the expectations I place upon myself and hopefully reducing some anxiety around it in the process.
What is weird is that I am not super keen on teaching, either; that is, teaching in a traditional sense. I do enjoy teaching, though, and my typical “day job” is a kind of teaching of sorts (I provide student support in public schools). I have a background in horticulture therapy, and because I work with people of diverse abilities, I think the therapeutic approach has really influenced my philosophy on how and why we learn and acquire knowledge, for what reason and to what end.
It is a very western thing to live a competitive existence where what matters are excellent results, and where social esteem comes from being considered the best at what you do. A lot of people are naturally competitive, they have a healthy approach to competition, and I think that’s great. However, in a move toward a more inclusive world I really think we need to re-evaluate our ideas of mastery and success and what those two things looks like on every body. What I really love to do is create programs and experiences that are accessible to everyone, and that are more about the process than the end result. Sure, I love to help someone learn a practical skill like waist hooping, but I really like an approach to learning things that is multi-faculty and and multi-sensory. I desire to create opportunities where the sheer joy and experience of learning comes from participating in an activity, and where the end results are secondary.
Remember being a kid and practicing something over and over again simply because you wanted to learn it, and then the practice itself became part of the passion for learning? Through teaching, I desire to rekindle this playful curiosity with our learner selves. Often when I see an adult pick up a hoop for the first time in awhile, they spin the hoop around themselves, it drops, they perceive it as a failure and say, “I could never hula hoop, even as a kid…” and move on with their day, secure in their belief that they will never hula hoop. Not to say that everyone has to hula hoop, but it saddens me how hard we are on ourselves and how we don’t even give ourselves a chance to make the mistakes needed to learn. And heck, even if we are the slowest learners in the class, so what?
For my next few blog posts, I want to share my ideas on learning, teaching, the concept of Flow, movement as healing, nature archetypes…. All of these “soft skills” that come from learning which are quite often devalued in our results-based society. I am feeling, with all the things going on in the world right now, a return to valuing such concepts equally and alongside the conventional purposes for any kind of education is direly in need. Yes, perhaps it is a feminine/masculine balance, in the spirit of yin and yang, but I don’t want to dismiss it entirely as New Age hoo ha, either.