I believe that teaching, as a two way street, is about more than just book knowledge; more importantly it’s about life lessons.
Every Saturday of my life, from childhood through adolescences, followed the same routine. I would get up at eleven am to the smell of my mom’s cooking. On most Saturday mornings, she would cook my favorite meal- French toast! The cinnamon smell would fill the house and my nostrils. After breakfast, the rushing would begin. Typically, I would have a half hour to get dressed, get into the car, and drive to TJE Dance Force.
TJE Dance Force is a quaint dance studio located in the heart of my hometown of Holbrook, New York. It is surrounded by multiple stores, bakeries, and restaurants on our Main Street strip. From first glance, one may perceive TJE as a useless dance studio; but to me it is so much more.
On Saturday afternoons, I always found myself at TJE. I took multiple special needs dance classes such as hip-hop, ballet, lyrical, and jazz. I danced with the same group of girls and teachers for ten years. Looking back now, the years flew by. Obviously after spending so much time together, we became our own little family.
Out of all the years that I danced at TJE, one Saturday afternoon, when I was thirteen years old, stands out in my mind. It was the Saturday that I was asked to assist in another special needs class. The class type was an autistic hip-hop class.
On my first day in the class, I went to the studio as usual. Only this time I had butterflies in my tummy. I had all of these mixed emotions. I was excited for such an opportunity yet nervous. I was nervous about whether or not the kids would like me and in all honestly if I would like them! After my dance class, I entered the new class. I remember it as clear as day. I was wearing a bright yellow t-shirt and jeans. When I entered, the kids and teachers were sitting in a circle in the middle of the room. They were singing and dancing to a song called “The Green Grass”. I instantly joined in with the group, and fell in love from that moment on!
The next week, I was paired with an autistic girl named Megan. She was seven years old and it was her first year dancing. We bonded almost instantaneously. I would assist and guide her through all of our drills, combos and routines. It was my job to make sure that she learned the moves, positions, and everything that was required.
I really enjoyed teaching Megan everything that I could, but in a way, I feel like she taught me so much more. The smiles on her face when she accomplished a simple task or the hugs she would give me at the end of every class taught me a whole lot about appreciation. Megan, along with all the other kids, taught me to appreciate the small things in life. Their level of appreciation towards somebody who just puts some of their time and effort into helping them was incredible. They didn’t need big, materialistic things to be happy; all they needed was somebody to care. I think if everybody lived that way, the world would be full of peace. The one other major thing that this experience taught me is that I want to be a special education teacher. I have had the same goal since I was thirteen years old thanks to these kids who showed me that I really can make a difference doing something that I love.