It can be a tricky sort of relationship.
No, no, I don’t mean a romantic relationship. I just mean it in the way we interact and know and perceive each other. I’ve said in many posts in the past how much I love my teacher. As my teacher. But he’s also a great person. I’ve known him for some time now, enough that I would be happy to count him as my friend. Enough that I like to think we are friends.
But are we?
The truth, I don’t know. This is where student/teacher relationships get fuzzy. Boiled down to the cold hard truth, we’re a business transaction. I pay him to teach me a skill, and he does so. Technically speaking I’m the boss, because I’m the one paying him. But paying him to be the teacher, which makes him the authority figure. Or, you know…the boss. That by itself is a difficult balance. He’s often saying I’m the one calling the shots, but for all intents and purposes, those calls are to defer to his superior skill and knowledge.
But that’s not really what this is about, even if it’s a subject he and I have often gone round in a never-ending “It’s your lesson!” “But you’re the teacher!” This is really about how students and teachers almost never boil down to just a business transaction. We become a part of each other’s lives. We in some shape or form become something more than student/teacher. We’ve developed inside jokes. I know exactly how to make him laugh, and no one can read me as well as he does. But despite having known him for over a year now, I’m never quite sure where the teacher ends and the person begins. The problem here is that they’re the same person. One I just happen to pay to pay attention to me, and the other gets caught up in that sense of obligation as a teacher to a student.
“My students always come first.” It’s a phrase he’s told me and proven many times over. It’s one I’ve taken advantage of at socials when I’m wanting a partner and he’s there. It’s one I’ve worried over for the same reason. Am I truly taking advantage? Does he really want to dance or talk with me when he’s “off the clock”? He doesn’t really owe me his time outside our lessons, but when it’s about making your students want to stay, what sacrifices is he obligated to make? And am I making it harder on him, pushing a friendship on him where he would rather stay professional?
As a student, I know what he wants from me and I know he likes me as his student. And as a teacher, I know what I want from him and I love him as my teacher. But as people, the lines get blurred. There are times when I feel certain we must be friends. And then there are those where I find I’m reminding myself we’re just student/teacher, and it’s wrong of me to demand more from him. I find myself thinking of a dance article I once read that bluntly stated “your dance teacher treats you like that because you’re paying him/her to,” and I find myself wondering if I’ve ever seen him acting as “not my teacher” and how we would get along if we weren’t student/teacher. Just two dancers meeting for the first time. I’d like to think we’d be friends.