With 2016 now in motion and dancers around the world getting ready to dive into a new year of dancing, it’s important to take a moment to reflect, acknowledge, and set new goals. It’s also a good time to think about what Irish dancing means in your life. For many teachers, Irish dancing is not just a job or a hobby, it’s an all-consuming passion that has made an impact on their lives in more ways than they could ever have imagined. It’s also a chosen path that comes with a lot of challenges and surprises! When you’re studying for that teachers exam, there is no textbook about dealing with difficult personalities, setting up a parents association, doing hair and makeup, or buying insurance. We asked these teachers to tell us what they wished they had known before becoming an Irish dancing teacher.
The life coach
I wish I had known that because Irish dancing has evolved so much I am not just an Irish dance teacher to those I teach, but also a second mum, psychologist, physio, fitness instructor, nutritionist, make up artist, and hairdresser. Irish dancing has gone to such a level now that it’s not just the Irish dancing you are talking with your dancers about, but the whole package for them as dancers on a broader scale. Teaching the steps is the easy part! – Fiona Moore, ADCRG
I wish I had known that being an Irish Dance teacher had many more responsibilities than just the typical dance teacher definition. Not only do you teach classes full of children you overwhelmingly become responsible for, you also have to be a great business owner, a mental coach inside and outside the studio, a life coach, and a role model! I always knew my teacher worked hard to be so successful, but I didn’t realize how many hats you have to wear when you strive to be a great teacher, and you have to wear them extremely well! If you aren’t prepared for this, and have no experience in these areas, it can be overwhelming no matter how much you enjoy it! – Jessie Baffa, TCRG
I wish I had known just how rewarding this job would be. I never really quite understood the many hats an Irish dancing teacher wears. You are not just a teacher, you are a personal trainer, psychologist, beautician, dietician, friend, advisor, role model. You have such an important role to play in your students’ lives. It is such an honour being an Irish dancing teacher. – Megan Ryan, TCRG
The fitness coach
I never knew that it would give me grey hair so quickly!
In my era of competing there was never any form of fitness programs which dancers have access to today. This is key as Irish dancing has changed so much over the years with so much athleticism now being involved and lots of movements and routines require extremely strong core strength. – Declan McHale, TCRG
The marketing exec
The thing I did not expect as a dance teacher was how much my professional marketing career would hold me in good stead, especially in terms of creating the culture and dynamic that I wish for the school through effective marketing communication. And the sheer amount of time and effort that that takes!!!! – Betty Sheehan, TCRG
How time consuming running a dance studio is! No one ever tells you about the hours that go into the administrative side of things. Emailing, advertising, entering students into comps, you’re lucky if you find time to choreograph! Heaven forbid trying to have a social life outside of Irish dancing. Irish dancing is my social life! – Megan Ryan, TCRG
The nervous nellie
You always hear from your parents how nervous they are when you walk on stage as a competitor. As a TCRG I wish someone had told me that it’s 10 times worse with each and every dancer that you teach. When they get on stage no matter what competition whether it’s a beginner comp, state, national or World championship, the nerves you feel as a teacher are like nothing I was prepared for! – Liam Ayres, TCRG
That the nerves don’t stop at competitions. I always envied the dancing teachers at competitions, thinking that they could relax being on the other side of things. But that is completely untrue. I find that the nerves are worse, as at the end of the day there is only so much you can do as a teacher. It comes down to how the student performs on the day and it is completely out of your control. – Megan Ryan, TCRG