How learning to fly taught me to teach.
It’s easy to nurture the students who have a flair for your subject. When I taught Drama I loved the children who were in school plays. Now I teach Creative Writing and I get excited about students who produce publishable work. There’s a mutual respect, a mutual fan club.
The students whose work is unimpressive, who produce sub-mediocre work, are harder to get excited about. Sometimes a teacher gets frustrated with slow or static progress; when you’re good at something it seems easy.
The trainers at NoFitState Circus have spent two years being patient with my slow, sometimes static, sometimes backwards progress. I have cried in the loo more than once. I have sworn a lot. I have refused to do turnarounds. My take-off is infamous for being wrong in ever-changing ways. I took months to get upside-down and over a year to do it consistently. But they kept going and they kept trying different things and repeating the same things.
Last week, I flew off-lunge for the first time. No belt, no lines, on my own. And last night, I went to catch from a simple pass. The trainers’ patience has paid off and things are starting to happen. They are steadily helping me persuade my body to go to catch from upside-down. I am indebted to them all and I have a renewed commitment to students whose progress is slow or static or sometimes backwards. Last night I thought about a student I had a couple of years ago who turned to me when she crossed the stage at graduation and smiled and waved; it had been a tough few years but her determination and my support had got her through and she had a degree. I will never be a circus performer and some of my students will never have their work published but I will keep flying because I love it and they will keep writing because writing is a type of flying.
The other community members at circus, most of whom do things on trapezes and hoops and ropes that are beyond my wildest dreams, have cheered me on all the way. They make me laugh and hug me and tease me and say, ‘You’ve got this’ when I’m standing on the platform and it suddenly seems impossible. We share something unique and precious and we treasure it.
NoFitState is a special place and the people who work there make dreams come true.