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Dance Teacher Ideas to Improve Your Classroom Environment Part III


Teacher article


Dance Teachers

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…

Can I get a Halleluiah! 


Steve Sirico

Steve Sirico

Steve is co-founder of Dance Teacher Web the number one online resource for dance teachers and studio owners worldwide.He is Co-Director of the very successful D'Valda and Sirico Dance and Music Center in Fairfield, CT for the past thirty plus years. His students have gone on to very successful careers in dance, music and theater. 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 has 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. 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, He has also co-authored two books one for dance teachers and one for studio owners in the "It's Your Turn" Book series. He is available for master classes, private business consulting and teacher training development

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