Alumna Shares Perspective on Teaching Dance

Why I chose to go into public school arts education

Ever since I could remember, dance has been my passion. In my early education, it was my favorite way to make connections across other disciplines I was studying. When other required classes did not come easy to me, dance education helped me to understand the climate of our society in the 20th century, or the definition of the force/gravity of movement as it relates to physics.

It also taught me interpersonal skills, like how to effectively collaborate and communicate with peers, to be vulnerable in my creativity, to take risks, to problem solve, to fail, and to succeed.

Apex Friendship High School dance performance. Courtesy of Sydney Potter

I am the person I am today because of the traits I have acquired through dance education. I am a first-year teacher and proud public school dance teacher at Apex Friendship High School.

Reflecting on my first year, I am overwhelmed by the creativity and ambition of the students I have the privilege to work with daily.

As a first-year teacher, you have no choice but to jump in 100% and cross your fingers that you are successfully delivering instruction and making connections for all students, all while trying to promote a collaborative and supportive classroom community. You want to make sure everyone is safely taking class, and attending to the 500 other things educators have to do daily. But thankfully, dance taught me to be adaptable.

By prioritizing relationships and acknowledging my students as people first and students second, the classroom community came fairly quickly. I was able to witness two beginning dance classes, all different backgrounds and dance experiences, find commonality through dance and create beautiful new friendships.

Apex Friendship High School dance. Courtesy of Sydney Potter

As the semester progressed, we began to prepare for our showcase. Each beginning dance class had two dances that were to be performed. As the date neared, things got serious. I loved watching my students hold their peers accountable when they noticed the class getting off track.

I knew I hit the mark when students were doing my job for me and helping their peers stay focused. The process of students working together towards something bigger than themselves is inspiring to be a part of. It didn’t happen overnight, but trusting the process is key — another thing I’ve learned through dance.

Apex Friendship High School dance class. Sydney Potter

The culmination of my first semester playing out at our winter showcase brought me to tears — fifteen dances, 84 students, all unique and working together to produce meaningful and thought-provoking work.

I had a recent conversation with my advanced students about how privileged we are to have arts and dance in schools, especially as some students would not have the opportunity otherwise. They disclosed to me that it is their safe space, a break in their day to truly express themselves, to be encouraged to take risks, to understand that trial and error is necessary for growth, and to be able to simply move together.

Sydney Potter, ’22, is the dance director at Apex Friendship High School and a first-year teacher. She is a recent graduate of Meredith College where she received her bachelor’s in K-12 dance education. Reprinted with permission from EdNC.

Melyssa Allen

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