After teaching dance for 34 years, I have just about seen it all in students. How they learn, how they behave and how they retain information has changed dramatically. Thinking back to how I taught even ten years ago, it is very different now. If I taught the same way my classes would not be very well received. In many ways it has kept me and my classes fresh but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I miss how the students would work previously and how they were happy to be pushed without pushing back.
After conducting many seminars at our Dance Teacher Web Conference and Expo this past summer, it appears that we are not the only ones experiencing the change in how students learn. I have heard from so many teachers that they are finding that their students are not pushing themselves and have a tendency to be a bit soft. Teachers are finding that it is much harder to get their students to concentrate, perform in class and apply corrections. This has been especially challenging with the more advanced students but even those who teach preschoolers are finding new challenges with focus and their students’ interaction with each other.
Now, I am not suggesting that all students are working poorly but the mindset is certainly different. Things have changed and as teachers we need to embrace the change and find ways to get our students to learn and grow. Even if it is not in the traditional way. It is our responsibility to find out what works best with our students. One size certainly does not fit all. Some students understand what it takes while others have the entitled mentality
The Covid Factor
At our studio we have seen a difference in students getting back into the groove with in studio learning. Focus is certainly a challenge and connecting in person with their peers has also been somewhat of a strain. Stamina has definitely suffered and working hard to increase that has not exactly been embraced. I have seen a bit of an upswing the past month or so but it has taken a lot of effort and lesson planning by all of our faculty to get all of the students back on track. The fact of the matter is, that these students need more guidance and nurturing than ever before, so that has made us all have to adjust our lesson plans for all ages and levels.
Accepting Corrections with Gratitude
I have spoken and written about this subject many times. We always have our students say “Thank You” after receiving a correction. We have instilled in them that a correction is a gift and should be received that way. So, when you get a gift what do you say? “Thank You”! However, this now more than ever needs to be reinforced as we have noticed that some corrections are received with a hurt look on the students face and sometimes with eyes filling up with tears. We have had to review with our students what corrections are and what they are not. If you are finding that your corrections are not being accepted in the spirit that they are given then I recommend you use the “correction is a gift” talk and get them in the right mindset. We have also always encouraged our students to write down their corrections. This helps the students take ownership of the correction and will give them an easy go to guide to review what needs to be worked on.
The one word I heard a lot this summer was “Entitlement”. Unfortunately, the world has changed in this regard. The mindset now is “What do I get?” The answer appears to be everything! I remember growing up and if I came home and complained about a teacher or coach correcting me my parents would say “What did YOU do?” Parents now respond with one word that has changed. “What did THEY do?” Feelings get hurt much easier now and we all need to be careful how we navigate the waters today. The other challenge we have to face today, more than ever, is that everyone wants to be in the advanced level or competition group without the effort and time needed to get there. This is an ongoing issue and will need time for us to reeducate the student and parent on the importance of going at the right pace in their dance studies. We always emphasize the safety factor as we know that without the right amount of strength and training the students run the risk of injury. I don’t have any magic formula or saying other than to keep your finger on the pulse of this, if you feel that things are starting to get a bit out of hand with your students or their parents get in front of it before it escalates. And by getting in front of it, that may mean sitting down and having a meeting with the student, parent and any teachers who may be involved with the student.
Dealing With Student Issues
Recently we had an issue where one student in our advanced company group was being a bit overbearing with some of the new dancers in the group. The real problems started when some of the parents got involved. All of a sudden, this whole thing turned sideways and accusations of bullying were being thrown around. We had to have a strong intervention with the entire group and then a meeting with the parents. This was extremely messy for about a week or so, which felt like two months! But, like most things that happen with students, this also had a certain shelf life and after we took control, everyone knew that we had our hands firmly on the wheel and we reset the guidelines moving forward.
This situation once again reinforced one of the important lessons that we have learned through the years. And that is to always stay calm, stay cool and proceed with confidence!
Here’s to your success!