You are an educator and you deserve the world. I’m not always a big fan of the New Year’s Resolution but I am a huge proponent for affirmations. I believe words can change everything. I’ve put together a list of goals to set in place to make sure you are always a priority in your teaching. These goals are stated in the form of affirmative sentences that you can post all over your home and your office as reminders. Find the affirmation that hits you in the gut right now - you don’t have to implement every single one into your life all at once. They are not set in the future; they are present tense to start training your brain now. Words are very powerful. Use them wisely this year and watch everything in your life shift drastically - and Happy New Year from all of us at Sadie Jane!
Affirmation #1: Self-care is my responsibility.
As a studio owner or a dance educator, our actions affect entire communities. The way we inspire a young girl to respect and support her classmates will crossover into her school classroom, her soccer teammates, her family, the grocery store clerk. She will lead others by example, making our actions a ripple effect far beyond what we will witness ourselves. Thank you for that by the way.
This means that when our health is suffering, we’re compromising our impact on our students and their families. When we’re not clear headed because we’re suffering from chronic pain, and our mood is affected by our lack of sleep, we are not able to give 100% to our dance community. That is okay, and that is understandable. And that is why self-care must be our priority. It is not a luxury, it is a responsibility. Even if the email is sent three days late. Even if the mirrors aren’t cleaned. Even if the choreography isn’t the very best today. Our self-care is more important than all of that. Doctor’s appointments, therapy appointments, acupuncture, massage, chiropractor. Getting to the gym. Dancing for ourselves. FUN. Don’t forget about FUN. We must come first. I know it’s hard to wrap our heads around it but it’s the best for everyone when we put ourselves first. We cannot fill another’s cup if ours is empty. Your self-care impacts entire communities. Put it first this year.
Affirmation #2: I am creating a buffer between myself and my studio dance parents.
If you are a dance teacher and you have a studio owner that runs operations, have a conversation with them about how family issues will be addressed this year. If you find that parents are coming to you before classes, between classes, keeping you late at the studio, something has to change. Our job is to create, to communicate with the students, to maintain an inspiring and uplifting environment. It’s very difficult to do that when Susie’s dad is asking us about excused absences between our classes. There must be a buffer. Have the front desk associate have a special clipboard put aside for you where parents can leave messages. Don’t have them email you - that’s just another way of interrupting your creative process. Unless the question really is directly for you, about a private lesson or a question about an injury you may be an expert on, the parents should have another person they can check in with. Hopefully there is a studio handbook they can skim to find answers - don’t feed them answers, tell them to read the handbook. That’s why it’s there. The more we baby parents, the more they rely on us to answer questions that are easily accessible to them via our website, studio handbook, or administrative assistant. You can respect and love your dance families while also setting these boundaries. In fact, it’s part of your respect for them, in setting them up for success should they ever move to another studio. They must learn how to be self-sufficient in their child’s extracurricular.
If you are the studio owner, you are handling parent issues already. Do you need a break? That’s very understandable. Have them set up appointments with you. This will force them to really think about their issue - is it something they could look up in the handbook or on the website? Then they won’t set up an appointment with you after all. You’ll find that the real issues will be filtered through to meet you during a pre-discussed time, and the minor issues like what time to show up to a performance or where to meet will be searched for in their email inbox. Parents are busy. Yes. But so are you. You do not have to do extra work for them all the time. Make your emails short and concise and remind them often to check it. All extracurriculars reach parents these days via email. Yes, it’s a lot for parents but that’s part of participating in an extracurricular activity. Do not let them guilt you for your clear communication. Set your boundaries. The year will be healthier for all when you do.
Affirmation #3: I budget to make __________________________________ a priority.
Part of creating a budget to begin with is making time to create a budget. Let me say that again.
Having a budget requires making time to create a budget.
If you’ve never created a budget before, you can start small. Write out your non-negotiable expenses like rent, utilities, groceries, gas, car payments, and internet. If you own your studio, you’ll need a separate budget for the studio - even if it all blends together in the end, make your personal budget different and separate. It’s important for your brain to understand that your life isn’t completely intertwined with your business. You get to have your own life too. Try software like You Need A Budget for additional guidance, or consult a professional.
If you already have a budget, great! I am extremely proud of you because I know how much work it takes to create one and stick to it! If you have one and you’re not sticking to it, also great! You’re learning as you go. Do not beat yourself up. Just try again each week to do your best.
Once all of your non-negotiable expenses have been added to the budget, you must create room for additional expenses that make you the best and healthiest version of yourself. It may take some time to fit them all in there, so start small. The most important things are the things that affect you every day as a dance educator - your health and probably what you’re wearing. Add these expenses in gradually and watch how your income shifts to allow for them because you’re able to handle your work and your creativity more sufficiently, making your productivity exponentially greater. Often times when we budget for things that make us healthier, our income also becomes healthier. Make room for the following in your budget this year:
- Self-care - massage, acupuncture, personal training, physical therapy, chiropractor, naturopathic doctor, co-pays for mental health professionals. These things are responsibilities when you work with children and community. Budget for them now.
- Clothing - do not let anyone tell you that your work clothes are not a priority. You sweat in them for hours at a time. If they are falling down or they do not breathe, and you are uncomfortable, your productivity is hindered. If you love $118 leggings from Lululemon, then budget for them and do your best to get rid of the guilt.
- Dance shoes - see above. Comfort and health is everything. Do not skimp on the right shoes with the right support.
- Education - your dancing matters too. Whether it’s traveling to a convention or taking classes in the nearest big city, your education impacts everything you teach. Ask your studio owner for an education budget this year, and if that’s not available now, make sure you budget for it until they can provide it for you.
- Networking - if you are the face of your studio, you should either be reimbursed for your expenses or if you are the studio owner, you should be saving all receipts to write them off as business expenses. Have a conversation with your boss if you need to bring attention to this issue. Often times it isn’t the first thing on their radar, but if they want to lead a successful business, these expenses are necessities for them.
If we don’t plan for these things amidst our busy lives, they don’t happen. Part of budgeting for these things also includes budgeting time for them. When it’s on our conscious, we are more likely to make them happen because we’ve added them to our planner and our financial budget. These things are not luxuries, they are part of the responsibility of teaching dance as a career. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
Affirmation #4: I express gratitude for my artistic gifts.
When is the last time you were able to accept a compliment from a coworker or a dance parent? Think about it. If you can remember receiving a compliment just last week and you accepted it as truth, I am thrilled. If you can remember receiving a compliment recently and you brushed it off, we have some work to do.
A compliment is a gift. Do not brush it off. Explore The Five Love Languages (not just for relationships! I use it to teach kids all the time and it is revolutionary!) and note how words of affirmation are many artists’ love language. Chances are, compliments mean a lot to you but you don’t know how to receive them because you crave them so often that when they come in they do not feel genuine. If a parent compliments you or thanks you for the impact you have on their child’s life, they are not taking time out of their busy day to oblige you. It means something to them to say these things to you. For some of them, it takes a lot of guts to approach you at all. Listen, and soak it up. Do not brush it away. Even if you can’t believe what they say to be true, try saying “thank you, it’s true” in your head when you say “thank you” to them for their words. It takes time, but eventually you can retrain your brain to accept compliments.
Part of receiving these words of affirmation comes from recognizing your gifts as an artist. In the dance industry, we have to spend so much time marketing ourselves and networking that it’s easy to forget that we actually are talented and creative individuals. We may say what we do is amazing and sets us apart because we’re selling ourselves but we forget that it’s actually true! When you have a vision for a piece of choreography, that’s a gift. That’s your intuition speaking. That’s a greater power providing you with vision and creation - and the power is coming from within you. Take time to be grateful for this. When you pick the perfect costume, when you have the perfect communication method with your soloist so that you’re on exactly the same page, when you put the show in a perfect order to tell a story, these are your gifts. Be grateful. Thank the universe, God, whoever you believe in for these gifts. And if nothing else, thank yourself, your intuition, for your artistic talents. Not everyone has them. It’s important you recognize this and re-affirm what is already true so that you are more sure of yourself and can stand in your power this year.
Affirmation #5: I make time for my personal hobbies.
My New Year’s resolution this year is to paddleboard once a week (I live by the ocean for pete’s sake and I rarely get in it!) and to see a movie twice a month. When your life is consumed by performances and competitions and dance families and marketing and websites and costumes and fishnets and lashes and editing music and do I need to keep going because I know you feel me, it’s so easy to let our personal hobbies go completely ignored! Cooking, painting, reading, watching old films, writing letters, these hobbies are hard enough to make time for. What if our hobbies are physical? It’s even harder because we’ve been dancing all week! Hiking, swimming, running, rock climbing - how do we fit it all in when we’re so exhausted!?
I think the first step is looking at our lives to see if we’re teaching too much. Is there a way to have our assistant do more movement, or give up a few classes so our bodies can hold up longer? The second step is scheduling our hobbies into our week. If I do not schedule my trips to the gym into my mornings, they don’t happen. These are non-negotiable meetings with myself that I will not reschedule. But if it’s not written down, it was never on the schedule and then I literally forget to go. If I don’t schedule the hiking trip four weeks in advance, it doesn’t happen. So for me, scheduling is everything. For you, it may be asking your partner to join you in some activities so that you are sure to show up. It might be assisting your child’s track team so that you get some laps in each week during their warm up. Find what works for you and remember that your happiness is a priority and your hobbies matter too. You become a better dance educator when you take breaks and you make time for yourself outside of the dance world. I encourage you to explore this in 2018!
Congratulations on making it through another year in the dance industry. It’s constantly changing, it’s constantly moving, and we’re all doing the best we can to keep up with it. Getting ahead of it is possible if we make ourselves a priority so our mental and physical beings are at their healthiest. I hope you find an affirmation here that helps you do that and I’ll see you for more dance teacher self-care in 2018!
Amanda Trusty currently serves as the Artistic Director for Kona Dance and Performing Arts, a nonprofit performing arts center on Hawai'i Island. She studied musical theatre at Shenandoah University and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, and currently studies tap dance under Gregory Hines' protégé Andrew Nemr. With a decade of professional performance and choreography credits from theaters both inside and outside of New York City, Amanda is passionate about using her artistry as a vehicle for change, with a sharp focus on empowering the next generation. As a freelance writer and activist, Amanda was recognized in 2015 by the Huffington Post as one of nine women bringing body positivity to dance. Follow Amanda on Facebook and Instagram