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Connecting With Your Students


Teacher article



As we prepare for the end of the season it is important, as teachers, to connect with each and every one of our students before the year is over. It is easy to have a connection with the eager, talented and out going student, but the ones who are a bit shy, reserved or just not in tune with the class can easily fall through the cracks and will not continue on with their dance training next year, if we are not careful. I have seen many a student continue on with their training just because a teacher said their name or found something that the student has improved upon during the season. One word of encouragement however meager can help you to build a bond with that pupil.

This is important for several reasons. First you want you pupils to continue on next year and by connecting with them it may be just the ticket to get them signing up for next year's classes. If you are the owner of your studio you will want to have your entire faculty on board with this idea. If you teach at several studios this will help keep your classes full and make your position at each studio stronger. It is also our responsibility as teacher to try to reach each and every one of our pupils. I know this can and will be a challenge, especially with the ones who have not really embraced dance for whatever reason. It could be that they don't understand what it takes to improve or that they feel that no one really notices them. These students will really need to hear from you. I believe that part of their issue is that they think that no one really cares about them. They feel that they are invisible. Just to hear you say their name is like music to their ears. The students who buy into what you are doing have already decided that they love to dance and most of them have a bond with their teachers.

It is important not to be false with the praise. It will not ring true and will be transparent if you are dishing out false compliments. If you are not a warm and fuzzy person, that is alright, it is all about reaching out and building a rapport with your students. We have to go out of our comfort zone every once in a while, if we want to get the best out of our students and help them to develop a love and appreciation of the art of dance. Sometimes the students just need to know that you know they are there, you care about them and that they matter. It is amazing how many students perception is not close to reality. Because of this, we must reach out to make sure they know how we feel about them and that we care. Here are some ideas to help you connect.

1. Make sure that you try to call out each student by name during class. It can be to compliment them on a step that they have now mastered, or because they are working hard or for good behavior throughout the year. I also like to point out which students have made progress by practicing throughout the year. This is a great way in a short period of time to really connect with the students. As studio owners we meet with each faculty member to discuss how to implement this in a way that is in line with the teacher's personality and to advise them on how to get the best reaction.

2. Have the students do a "show and tell". I really like to do this at the end of class. You can line the students up and have them come forward and show you any step that they know. They must use the terminology and then demonstrate the step. The students love it because they get to impress the teacher and each other. If you see they are struggling, you can help them along and give them some encouragement.

3. Take a moment during the class to say something positive about how you feel overall about the students of that class. If a class has picked things up particularly well during the year, tell them. If they have practiced or have been prompt or always the best groomed. Find a general comment that you can make. Try to make eye contact with everyone while you are talking to them.

4. During one class have the students sit down and write what they think they have accomplished this year and what they would like to improve upon next year. This way they can see that they have improved and that the goals they have set for the future can be a great motivating tool for them to use. You can then collect these papers and take a look at them before the next class to get an idea of how they perceive themselves.

Once you establish a great rapport with your students it will leave an ever lasting impression on them. They will always fondly remember their time training with you and how you made a difference in their lives. What a beautiful way to be remembered!


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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