Back in The Student and the Teacher, I went on about the complicated relationships students face with their teachers. I wondered what my and my teacher’s relationship really was. Professional? Friendship? Something within that spectrum? Having been dancing for two years now, I have that answer.
I’m his student. He’s my teacher. Nothing more.
And I’d be lying to say that admitting it doesn’t sting. I’ve known him for a long time now. A year ago, I would have said he’s my friend. And today I say he’s my teacher. What happened?
Well…I’m not entirely sure I know.
As the months went by, so much of what was there before that went missing. We didn’t talk and joke as before. I started feeling dismissed. That my lessons really were just a job to him. And not a job he enjoyed. I started to get anxious and discouraged. What was I doing wrong? Was he disappointed in me? Did he not like being my teacher anymore? Did he not like me? I’d watch him interact with his new students. The same way he used to interact with me. And I’d feel…jealous. And sad. Why was it only me?
I started to confide in my other dance friends, both his students and students of other teachers. Most of them assured me nothing was wrong. That to them it looked like we were just the same. One person even told me “Oh come on, everyone knows you’re his favorite.” Some of them gave insight to having the same problems with their teachers. And the conclusion for all of us was the same.
I wasn’t new anymore.
The honeymoon phase was over, so to speak. We went from total strangers to seeing each other several times a week. It starts to feel like there’s nothing left to learn about someone. He has a pretty firm grasp of my personality and my dancing. Gone are the days of anticipation and here are the days of expectation. Not only that, he now knows how committed I am. No sales pitch. No recruitment. No hook. He has me. I’m here for the long haul.
But it’s also more than that. When I first started with him, I had terrible anxiety and low self-esteem. I was shaking all throughout our lessons. And he personally helped me through so much of that. Talking up my esteem and talking down my anxieties. I couldn’t believe I had met someone who believed in me so much. These days, I’m doing much better. I’ve learned a certain level of confidence, and it’s been a long time since he’s had to hold my hands and tell me I’m fine. In that sense, he might feel like his job is done. He might feel like it was time to shift. That I could handle the more critical side of him. And can I? I think so. Even when it makes me sad and frustrated, because I want to be the best dancer I can, so I take each criticism as it comes. And maybe I don’t need him to build me up anymore. But I want to know he still believes in me like before. And that’s hard when it feels like his critical side is all I ever see anymore.
So maybe the wonder of newness has worn off me too. When I started dancing, it was this incredible new world, and I was incredibly dazzled by everything in it. Especially by the teacher who first taught me how incredible it can be. For so long, dancers seemed like this great, elevated type of person. I still think he’s amazing. But I also know he’s a major dork. And so very, very human. I’m no longer so desperate for his approval as I am desperate he teach me all that he can.
But I’m struggling with this new dynamic. As I said above, I’ve been anxious, and discouraged, and sad. There’s so much in my head I need to sort out, so that I can get back to those days I looked forward to what every lesson brought me.
Which is why I have decided to put a break between us. And in that break, I’ll be taking lessons from other teachers within the studio I have come to know well. I think it will be the best thing for me. He was my first private teacher, and so far my only one. I need to step away, to get fresh views and new teaching. I need to remember I’m here for dance and not for him to teach me dance. Maybe it will be good for him too. Maybe some time away from each other will clear the building frustrations between us. But it could also make things worse. To my friends I’ve confided and sought advice, they all agree he may take it very badly. I don’t know. This student/teacher relationship has long stopped being something I understand.
I just miss the days we felt like friends.