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Dance Teacher Ideas to Improve Your Classroom Environment Part II


Teacher article


Dance Teachers

Dance Teacher Classroom management 101!

The best time to take control of your class is at the start of the season but there is no time like the present. Set the tone with a list of guidelines, rules, regulations or any other name you want to give it. If presented in a positive way, the class will, for the most part, be happy to follow. Have your students sit down, preferably during their first class, and go over each important item you require. Once you set these guidelines, they will need an occasional review. Once students understand that these exist so to let everyone get the most from the class, they generally get and stay on board.

I also recommend giving them a copy of the rules to take home. This helps their parents understand that your classes are not a free-for-all, and that you are not just a babysitting service. Some of the topics we like to talk about are proper grooming and class attire; no gum chewing in class; no talking (this is a big one to get across); the importance of being on time and paying attention; how to respond to corrections and not to take offense when those are given; and respecting teachers and fellow dancers. I am sure you will come up with your own laundry list of pet peeves when you do this. This is the first step in gaining control of your class and letting its members know that there are boundaries. Students do respect them but will try to push beyond them. You can then revert back to the guidelines and remind them that everyone is expected to follow the rules.

If you don't have the benefit of starting at the beginning of the year, then I would recommend that you teach the first class and make mental notes throughout of things that you don't like or feel that are not conducive to the learning process. Then approach the studio owner and ask if you can set some guidelines to help the students learn faster and have a more pleasurable experience. Next, sit the class down and set the new rules in a fun and upbeat manner. I never like to make it sound like they are going to jail! But I have been to studios where things are so out of control I don't know how the teachers can stand it!

Dealing with the problem child!

Dealing with that one problem child is always a tricky situation and must be dealt with carefully. If a student is reprimanded, I always like to follow it up with a smile shortly afterward so she or he knows it is not personal. Once the child starts to see that you mean business and that the guidelines are to be followed, she or he will start to get with the program! Sometimes parents will come in and say, "You yelled at my child!"  You cannot remember doing so and you probably didn't, but the student's perception is that you did. So how you reprimand the student is very important. Try to focus on the behavior not the person. Let the child know before the class is over that you do not hold any grudges!  You can achieve this by saying something good about something that the person did well during the class, even if it is a stretch! A smile and reassuring touch on the shoulder can go a long way.

If you are spending too much class time reprimanding, it could be a sign that you are losing the student, and it would be wise to stop the class and calmly go over the guidelines again and again if necessary. Sometimes the only thing left is to dismiss a child from the class. This is always dramatic and will pull the whole class into focus. I would recommend talking to the one that was asked to leave the class before he or she leaves the building. Let the child know that the behavior will not be tolerated and that if it happens again, he or she may not be allowed to take your class anymore. We all know that some classes are great, and the students always do the right thing. We also know that there are some classes where you just want to pull your hair out—or theirs! But you can get things in order just by setting guidelines—and using them to refocus the group as needed.

Chances are that no matter what class you are teaching there will always be one! You know what I mean, the one that is a problem! The one that talks, the one that doesn't listen, the one who wants to be a smart aleck, the one who thinks he or she knows more than you do and of course, the one who just wants to make your life a misery! I am sure you have a few others that you can throw into that category. These students can really affect your classes, energy, creativity and flow. We have tried many techniques throughout the years and have found a few methods that produce good results.

I believe dance teachers must establish that they are in charge and that they will not tolerate any disrespect! You will need to show students that you mean business. It is not necessary to be a tyrant, but a firm and assured attitude is the key to keeping control. This can be demonstrated by what you say and by how you act. Students have to understand that if they misbehave, there will be consequences. If they are disrespectful or not behaving in class, give them at least one or two warnings. But if they persist, you may find it necessary to either have them sit down to watch the rest of the class or send them out of the room to demonstrate your point.

I like to focus on the one who is causing problems and try to get that person to be more mentally involved in the class. When there is a problem student, the natural reaction is to be annoyed at him or her. It is challenging to have a positive attitude when in reality you just want that person to go away! We don't enjoy teaching or having to deal with this type of student. Try to view it more as a challenge to win the student over. I know that can sometimes translate into a lot of hard work! Most of the time these kids are just screaming out for attention and don't care how they get it. Sometimes the ones who are struggling with the learning process just need a bit of one-on-one focus. Try to encourage the child to practice or take a private class with you. Talk to the parents and find out if there are problems at home or at school.

With the students who are having a hard time picking up a step, I will encourage them to practice at home. When they come back and show me that they have mastered the step and have practiced on their own, I make a big deal out of it. I let them lead the class in the step and then have their fellow students applaud their achievements. This can be highly contagious and will encourage others to follow suit!

Our goal as teachers is to challenge all of the students to learn and progress. Some will take the challenge faster and better than others. Some are born to dance. For the others, if we can teach them that practice and extra effort can result in advancement, then that will be a life lesson to enhance their lives more than any dance step!

In part III we will focus in on how to get your students eager and receptive to receive corrections.

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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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