Lessons from dancing

My friend, Audrey from South Carolina, seems to have this unshakeable belief about dancing and Africans. To her, dancing is in the genes of an African. Nobody can let her believe otherwise. Audrey has managed to convince herself, my roommates and perhaps, myself, that dancing is one of the evolved traits, characteristic of African descendants.

You see, Audrey has spent quite a substantial amount of money on herself, with the aim of being a good dancer. She has been in salsa classes since she was 2, joined a hip-hop dancing crew in high school and took African studies with emphasis on African dance as an undergrad. She goes to the YMCA to dance every second and last Saturday of the month and dances to every beat she hears, no matter the place, to the embarrassment of the people around.

However, no matter how often and hard Audrey tries to dance, she always comes across as clumsy and trying too hard. Once, she hit her foot against a table while trying out a simple dance move and had to see the doctor to ease her pain. A mutual friend of Audrey and I, recently confided in me about how uncomfortable she feels whenever she sees Audrey dancing at the YMCA.

One day, while dancing with Audrey, she threw her hands in the air despairingly, while muttering that I was so good at dancing because I was African. Like Audrey, I too, love to dance. I dance whenever I can, in the shower, in the kitchen and usually, in the living room with my friends and roommates cheering me on. But, there is a little difference between Audrey and I… people love to see me dance. My roommates think that unlike Audrey, I move with the rhythm of the song, I do not strive to dance, I just go with the flow and dance. I am my authentic self when I dance and that’s why people love to see me dance.

I so wish I had that kind of flair for teaching as I have for dancing. When it comes to teaching, I am a 100% Audrey. I love to teach and I want to be a teacher after school, but I come across as trying too hard and perhaps, clumsy. I cannot place a finger on the rhythm of my students and go with the flow. I always overthink and end up in pain, just like Audrey. Had it not been for the fact that most of my teachers, growing up in Africa, were amazing, I would be tempted to throw my hands in the air like Audrey, and say lamely that I am bad at teaching because I am African.

I know that teaching is not a genetic trait but when I see some people teach with very natural flairs, I begin to question my quest to be a good teacher and wonder if I have the teaching genetic traits…..


I think we all feel like we hit a wall sometimes with teaching. We might step on our students toes or get off beat from time to time, but luckily for us our students are more like spectators in the audience than those sitting at the judges table.

Homero Murzi

Thanks for sharing!

Remember that finding your teaching voice is a process. It takes a lot of time, practice, and reflection. I’m pretty sure that at some point, Audrey will be able to become a good dancer, probably she needs to do more reflection and be more aware of her process. Practicing and trying a lot without reflecting might not lead to better outcomes.

Think about what you value, think about what your students expect, and keep practicing. But again every time you practice be very aware and insightful about what is working, what is not, and how you -without stopping being yourself- can do to change what is not working.

Be patience that you will get there.




REALLY enjoyed this post! I also think it takes practice and in time you will catch your flair (and maybe your friend will dance with a bit more ease)! I think this course it showing us many ways to connect with our students and find our own teaching voice – I am certain you will find YOUR grove.

Alex Stubberfield

I asked an artist in Asheville if he was trying to solve a problem when he painted. In his lifetime, he went form being a highly sought family portrait painter and sketcher to a conceptual artist freed from the bonds of the material form. He told me that he couldn’t possibly be trying to “solve a problem” when he painted. Why? Because “when the soul is at play the mind must rest.”


I agree with some of the other comments that the more you practice, the more at ease you will feel and the more you will learn about your students and what works best for you and them. I remember my father telling me about how uncomfortable he felt with public speaking during his younger years which really surprised me because ever since I can remember, my dad has always been a great speaker who would get invited to give seminars across the country and he would even sometimes get applause from his medical students after finishing a lecture! He emphasized the power of practice and review in order to improve any particular skill, suggesting you try a few different things every time in order to find out what works best for you. In the case of your friend, if everyone seems to see something that she is missing, maybe it could help for her to review a tape of herself. That is a technique my dad used to improve his public speaking and in a way it can also help to gain more confidence once you see that something went a lot better than how you may have perceived it at the time which could be the case for you in the classroom :)
Thanks for sharing!


I know I’m a little late reading this post, but it really spoke to me! I feel like I’m surrounded by talented, exceptional individuals who can pick skills up, like teaching, and absolutely excel at it. Meanwhile, I overthink, overwork, and over prepare, and still somehow end up feeling like I just can’t get the groove of the damn thing. Really enjoyed this post. So relatable.