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The Feel Good Factor


Teacher article



I have recently read articles written by teachers who talk about teaching by using only positive reinforcement. Teachers who feel that a student should never be told that they are doing something incorrectly and that somehow it is wrong to expect a student to actually work in class and strive for some level of excellence. When did, "you need to fix that!" become something so bad? I am not a fan of the "one size fits all" teaching method.

Is it a mistake to view failure as something that is unacceptable? Are we doing a child a disservice to let them believe that failure spells disaster? How will they learn how to rebound from those failures that they most surely will experience at some point in their lives if they are never taught how to handle those situations? I remember when I was a child and lost a big baseball game, I was devastated and I still remember that game and how it taught me not to let one failure get me down and that life does indeed go on. There are many great people in business and in life that say that they have learned more from their failures than they did from their successes. Giving praise when due and helping students reach higher levels of self esteem and self worth is part of a teacher's job. Should children be taught that success comes easily or does it benefit them more to understand that hard work and dedication can lead them to success?

Some students who are shy or reserved will need to be given corrections and acknowledgement in a very upbeat manner, especially if they are new students and have not had time to connect with the teacher but students that have built confidence with you will not be offended or intimidated by a stronger correction. I have found that it sometimes works very well if I take a shy student aside and explain to them why I am correcting them and show them how it is going to help them progress. So often children feel slighted or disliked by the teacher and therefore completely misunderstand the spirit of the correction. So the key is to try to reach each child in the most effective way possible.

Recently, in a "60 Minute" show on television they talked about the state of the work force today and how there is a dilemma in that this young generation of workers seem to be expecting more for less. Everyone wants to be told they are great and how well they are doing even if they really don't achieve anything. The issue Human Resource departments of major corporations are having is that employees find difficulty in dealing with everyday problems because they have not experienced any failure in their upbringing. What does all of this have to do with dance classes? Quite a lot! Learning to dance is not easy, even if you have a great facility for it. It takes hard work, focus and practice.

What I love about dance training is that you earn that self esteem and respect because you have worked hard to get to a higher level. If someone is trying to do a turn or a leap and it is constantly not working it is important for them to understand that with a little hard work and by changing some ways of approaching their work they will have much more success. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that can be waved to make everything right! If we ignore their problems and let them think that they do not need to make any changes, are we really helping them to succeed? Basically, what it all comes down to, is trying to reach each student in a way that will help them to achieve success but also let them understand that hard work does not equal something unpleasant. In fact, if we give them the impression that no effort needs to go into learning how to dance we are giving them false expectations. We have had many students come back to see us after they have moved on to the real world. They thank us for showing them the value of hard work and of not being afraid to fail and having the understanding that sometimes failure makes us stronger as long as we view it in a positive light.

I love my students and the joy they bring me is immense. However, as we all know, it can be frustrating when you give a student a correction over and over again. I have discovered that there are a number of reasons why a student doesn't fix their corrections. Sometimes it is because they don't think they need to, occasionally they are simply lazy or unmotivated and sometimes they just don't understand what is needed to fix them. I try to reach out to these dancers to find out why they are not working on their corrections, because, no matter what the reason is, they need guidance in one way or another. How awesome is it when you, as a teacher, can get a student to really understand what needs to be done and enable them to do it? So finding the right balance and medium to connect with each student is really worth the time and effort. What works for one pupil may not work for the next.

Building trust and having a good relationship with our students gives us the opportunity to be more demanding and to achieve better results. Once these students work to make the corrections and see what has been accomplished, what does that do for their self esteem? What lessons will they learn from these challenges? They will feel better equipped to deal with problems that will face them in the adult world. If, through dance, we are able to teach our students that they are worthy and have the power to achieve no matter what the circumstances, then we have taught them a life lesson that will help them succeed in what ever they do whether they become dancers or not.


Steve Sirico

Steve Sirico

Originally from Norwalk, Ct, Steve excelled in track and football. He attended the University of Tennessee at Martin on a sports scholarship. Deciding to switch and make his career in the world of dance, he studied initially with Mikki Williams and then in New York with Charles Kelley and Frank Hatchett. He appeared in a number of theatre productions such as Damn Yankees, Guys and Dolls and Mame in New York and around the country and in industrials and television shows. He was contracted to appear as the lead dancer in the Valerie Peters Special a television show filmed in Tampa, Florida. After meeting Angela DValda during the filming they formed the Adagio act of DValda & Sirico appearing in theatres, clubs and on television shows such as David Letterman, Star Search and the Jerry Lewis Telethon. In 1982 they were contracted to Europe and appeared in a variety of shows in Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Italy before going to London, England where they appeared as Guest Artists for Wayne Sleep (formerly of the Royal Ballet) in his show Dash at the Dominium Theatre. Steve and Angela have owned and directed their dance studio in Fairfield, CT for the past twenty two years and in 2005 added music and vocal classes to their curriculum. Author of his Jazz Dance syllabus and co-author of a Partner syllabus both of which are used for teacher training by Dance Educators of America, Steve continues to adjudicate and teach for major dance organizations. Recently taught at the Interdanz conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, He choreographs for theatres, television and conventions and DValda & Sirico are currently in production choreographing the opening to the National Speakers Association convention on Broadway at the Marriott Marquis for August of 2008. Steve is co-owner and director with his wife, Angela, of the website Dance Teacher Web designed as an online resource for teachers worldwide.

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