Dance Teachers: You’ve got to have faith!
Believe in your corrections, believe in your teacher. Now repeat it again and again, and then write it down ten times. It should be a chant that all students older than the age of 8 say as they go into class!
Don't you love it when a student you teach comes to tell you about some revelation he or she just experienced in another class? It was a correction that you gave only 5,000 times! Finally, the student gets it and hears it. Don't lose faith in yourself. You know what you are doing and that you are a good dance teacher. Students will learn, and you have the key.
It's all about the faith. No, I am not going to get religious on you now! It's about showing the students to trust you as a teacher and understand that you are there to guide them to a higher level. If they are there just for recreation, it is important to point out to them that part of recreation is to have fun.
In dance the real fun begins when you start to have a knowledge or vocabulary of steps. To master these steps, corrections will be given and, if applied, will lead to greater joy and self-expression. I like to use this analogy: If you have a piano and you sit down at it and play "chop sticks," how long will it take before you get bored with playing that? You need to learn, get better and broaden your knowledge.
The key is to inspire the students to have faith in what we are saying and know that, if they can understand the correction, they will get better.
So how do we do it?
How can we convince the students to have faith in what we say—and to love hearing any bit of information we impart to them?
How do we go beyond a correction, other than to verbalize, demonstrate and then have them do it?
Go that extra mile to show them that you care. I know that, in some ways, it may sound a bit corny. But we have found that it works like a charm every time. Students don't care about how much you know until they know how much you care, especially about them! Eye-to-eye contact and a smile will go a long way. Sometimes the most challenging students only want to know that someone really does care about them, even if the student has a funny way of asking for it. They are the ones who will really pull our focus and energy. The key is not to let them have it all. Sometimes just giving students a time out in class will do the trick. If students decide to be problematic for the day, I stop the class, make them go and sit down, and then watch the session. This sends a pretty strong message and usually is highly effective. No matter what happens, I always try to let students know in some way that I have their best interests in mind. I will not, however, let them get away with behavior that is detrimental to the rest of the class.
Receiving the gift of a correction!
That’s right—it is a gift. I like to ask my students: When you receive a gift, do you make a face and push it away? Of course not! You smile and accept it with open arms! That is why we have our students ALWAYS say thank you for a correction. This sets the tone for accepting it in the manner it is given. It also allows the student to take ownership of the correction. I constantly tell my class that they are there to learn—recreational or not! I am there to teach, coach and give constructive criticism. By the way, we also have our students come up at the end of class to curtsey or bow, and say thank you for the class. It sets a tone of appreciation, and that is a good place to be after any class.
Most parents just want their children to have fun, which means it is up to us to educate them and show them that we are teaching much more than dance. If students can learn how to apply corrections toward solving a problem, how many times in their lives will that be used? It is building the right mindset for learning and promoting coping skills…