Wednesday, 27 September 2017

"Exchange is the teacher of many things"

I recently had a situation at work which left me with a feeling of deep disappointment and frustration. This is why I want to write a short post about exchange. I believe that the subject fits very well in this programme, especially at the beginning of a new term.

I'm not sure if it is because I'm doing this programme and meeting so many people who are keen to exchange ideas, or if it is a character trait.... but I am wondering why are people not willing to open up and to pass on their knowledge and experience? Why do people fear that someone would steal ideas and copy their classes if they let them into their studio? Don't we all have one main goal in common as teachers, namely to provide the best possible training for our students? 
I guess in this programme, we all are convinced that the learning process is never over and that there is always more to discover. Yesterday, Samantha commented my previous post by saying that she is excited to "learn" from her students and determined to open up. Having this platform for exchange gives me a feeling of not being alone in my job and being surrounded by people who believe that it is important to stay connected. We accept our weaknesses, or we know where we could learn more, and we are aware of our strengths and willing to share them. 
My previous post was about responding to stories and letting experiences converse with each other. If we close the door to our studio, how can someone respond to our story, how can we start a conversation? 
In dance, exchange is vital. Exchange occurs in the breathing, between the dancers in many different ways, within the body, between the dancer and the environment... dancing, we constantly exchange movement. In fact, "(...) exchange is a tool for engaging, communicating and responding spontaneously with the world around us; it is how we experience life and is the teacher of many things (...)." Even though Karin Rugman wrote this in her article about 'Contact Unwinding' in order to talk about a specific technique which focuses on partners bodywork, this citation nicely expresses what I believe should happen between us teachers. I wish that we all would use exchange as a tool for engaging in our profession, communicating between practitioners and responding to our environment in order evolve and learn or teach. In order to do so, I cannot think of another way than by simply opening our doors.

I'm excited to exchange with you this term, and hope that I will continue to do so in the MAPP Alumni group and I'm looking forward to reading and listening to your stories. 


  1. Hi,
    I thoroughly resonate with whatever you have expressed. I guess this is a very common trait in any profession. There are many artists who are egoist due to their very own nature however, one thing I have noticed is that, to be a performer it requires a little ego in an ego centric business, but to be a dance teacher one has to be completely devoid of ego and should always be a giver. I am truly with you to exchange and to stay connected in this journey of learning. Thanks Maitee.

  2. Hi Maïté, you really have touched on a valid point here that I have a deep understanding for. I have lived now for 17 years in a town where I have felt so alone and a need that I have to "prove" myself to be a part of the dance environment here. I've never felt accepted after hearing from students that I was "to strict", "to English", "to this and that". When I asked other teachers if it would be possible to watch some classes there were always excuses. I never understood why and it hurt and saddened me to the core. When I was asked 4 years ago to teach at the university I felt like I was "accepted", I had passed my long exam period! What changed for me was there were a constant flow of guest teachers, who never said no to me watching their classes. They also had the time to chat after which was a breath of fresh air, they love to chat and I totally threw myself into our conversations. I don't know why certain teachers behave the way they do but unfortunately they do. I have realised that I can be the same and withhold my knowledge (for what it's worth!) to myself or I can share my knowledge with those who think it's of help. I prefer the latter. My knowledge came from somewhere, my teachers at least have some influence in this, and it's not exclusive to me. Like many of us we are givers in our profession and why should it stop at our students and not include peers and colleagues? I have no answer really except I know who I am, and I want to be "generous" with my knowledge and I will be.Sam

  3. I don't know either, but it frustrates me. The quickest example I can think of is in those recipes that are family secrets--as part of a family where we share all our recipes because we want everyone to enjoy them as much as we do, I never could understand it. And it's the same with dance--why not share as much knowledge and collaborate as much as possible? It's good for us and good for the students too, I think.

  4. It is comforting to see that I am not the only one experiencing this but at the same time it is sad to see that teachers from 4 completely different parts in the world know what I am talking about. I agree with Parimala that if one decides to be a teacher, it means that one has to give and not keep. I love the idea of guest teachers. I am only at the beginning of my teaching career and my students are still discovering my way of teaching and my style and I am still trying to "sell" myself and my classes, but already I want to invite guest teachers so my students and myself can learn something different and new. I love to watch classes and listen to teachers so I can combine the ideas that I find interesting with my own ideas. It is such an easy and social way to further one's knowledge. But it is sad that there are always "family members" who wish to keep their "recipes" secret.

  5. I also have experienced reluctance from other teachers to share their ideas or not open the studio door to visiting teachers. This I can relate to in early teaching days myself as I had worked hard to establish my business from scratch and my practise was 'special' and there were secret methods that needed to be kept!! (loved the secret recipe)! Or else, when the 'competition' gets their hands on your ideas they'll steal your students!!! Not altogether untrue however! This sense of 'lack of trust' comes from living in a fiercely competitive profession and I do believe as performers we are all mostly insecure. As I am now an 'older' teacher my priorities have shifted. I am far more 'child focused' and less worried about what other people might steal! It is with collaboration and friendship that our greatest ideas might unfold together after all. Also, I won't be here forever and other teachers will soon fill my shoes. I believe this is also a dynamic we should use with our children in class. Setting them up to work together to produce something unique rather than setting them up to compete against each other.
    After 8 months of providing maternity cover for a teacher friend of mine, I enjoyed working with her students and seeing how they had developed in different ways from my own and how the school was managed. But the greatest satisfaction for me was sharing our ideas. Baby has arrived and I was happy to help for a short while, but I don't intend to try to coerce her students across to my school. But, sadly some teachers would. It is with this lack of trust that come the shut door.