I am just back from 2 weeks in the south of France teaching basic anatomy to future dance teachers.
It's a group of women ranging from 15 to 35 years old. Most of them choose to come to this 2 weeks intensive program. They get to refine and discover a variety of topics from ballet to music and anatomy.
Because the majority of them is here willingly and because a few of them are either the same age or older than me, it is easy to quickly become friendly. They are good students and we spend a lot of time together during two weeks. We joke a lot and because they feel comfortable, they tease me or laugh at me which, of course, I don't mind. I think that it's healthy to be able to laugh at yourself. The only thing is, that at the end of the two weeks, I will decide whether or not they pass on to the next level. I have an authority over them.
The question then is, how do you find the right balance between a good authority (laugh with my students, comfortable working atmosphere) and a bad authority (no control over the group or a dictatorial control)?
During these last two weeks everything went very well but for the first time I started questioning the meaning of the authority (power) I had over these women. I was joking with all of them but then had to make sure they worked enough to get their diploma.
How do you tell someone with whom you've been having a good time, that they didn't get their diploma and that they need to come back next year?
I had teachers, in the past, who would always keep a very strong dividing wall between themselves and us. We would never have laughed at one of them. I don't want to be like that, because when I was a student I kind of forgot that my teachers had lives outside the dance studio. This dividing wall, they used, made us forget that they were human beings.
I just hope that the students understand that a comfortable working atmosphere (where you can laugh at me) doesn't mean we're friends. I won't give any of them their diploma because we're friendly with one an other. That's why they need to know we're not friends.
The idea of authority and power reminds me that as teachers we have responsibilities.