The Trauma of Teaching Toddler Tap

This post is part of the “Blogging from A-Z April Challenge”! The “T” themed inspiration for today is “tap.” Enjoy!

I used to teach dance at an old studio in my hometown. When I say dance, I mean the styles that I was familiar with; ballet, mostly, and jazz. However, I had a friend who had just started teaching tap to children ages 3-5, and when I say teaching, I mean never showing up and having to get a substitute.

When I say substitute, I mean me.

I barely do tap. Compared to my involvement in other styles of dance, there’s no need to be polite; I suck at tap. I barely know a shuffle from a flap.

Yet here I was, week after week, faced with the trauma and terror of mini humans with weapons of mass eardrum destruction strapped to their feet. Bombs just itching to detonate.

There were three levels to the studio this all took place at, and every week toddler tap was sent downstairs, banished, essentially, to the dungeon. From upstairs, no one would be able to hear me scream.

It seemed as if the parents didn’t care what I was teaching, so long as I took their children away at 3:00 and brought them back, alive, at 4:00. They would meet me, happily, at the top of the stairs every week with their well-behaved children quietly waiting for class. Then, at the stroke of 3:00, they would wave them off down the stairs, releasing them into my hands, where each and every one of them transformed into terrifying, tapping trolls.

Let me explain simply: you can’t walk quietly in tap shoes as a normal human being. But you simply can’t even EXIST quietly in tap shoes as a toddler.

Every exercise I taught started out semi-decently, but quickly degraded into a thrashing and dissonant, clanging symphony of stomps. To the kids, tap was exactly what they were doing; just a bunch of jumping around excitedly making random noise. They didn’t understand that there is choreography involved; that there are specific movements they needed to be able to replicate.

Time did not pass in that class. I considered the fact that the parents were blissfully unaware to what was going on downstairs, and that perhaps I could just lock the trolls in a sound-proof closet, turn off the lights, and have a nap for an hour.

And yet, I powered through. Though truthfully, by 3:30 we were already playing freeze dance and four corners, and by 3:45 tap shoes were off and I was handing out stickers for being “good.” At 3:55 I was pushing the kids out the door and up the stairs with a smile and loud exclamations such as: “Great work today!” “We got so much done!” “Wow you’re all learning quick!” “Pros by next week!” You know, the kind of thing parents like to hear.

Each week at 4:00 I thanked the universe for allowing me to survive and swore I would never sub toddler tap again. Until the next week when my friend would inevitably be unable to again.

But from all of this, I did learn something important. As we get older we listen to higher-ups, we follow the rules, we fear making noise. I’m not saying to tie on tap shoes and go to town, but just to remember when you were a bratty, fearless child; confident in everything you didn’t know, and taking on the world. When you have something to say, make a noise. And if no one hears you, stomp on the floor a little more.

As for my friend, she ended up teaching one class, going crazy, and then quitting. Thankfully, though, we found a new teacher. I’m not sure how well she handled it, down there in the dungeon, but she always went down with a smile on her face and came back up with the same grin.

I’m guessing she locked them all in a sound-proof closet and took a nap.

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One thought on “The Trauma of Teaching Toddler Tap

  1. Pingback: Mew, Mew, it’s The A-Z Challenge, in Review! | ...So Help Me Cats

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