By Jessica Rizzo, faculty member & contributing writer for danceteacherweb.com
As teachers, we all love when our students excel and have a stellar performance year. A year where we see the student blossom and have that “A-HA” moment when everything starts to click for them in class. It’s wonderful to see their hard work pay off as well as our own and is the moment every teacher waits for. However, what happens when those students come back to class the following season and are getting, shall we say, a little “overly confident” and a little too big for their britches?
You might have noticed this little trend in behavior as well, you know, where the ego is a little too inflated, the dancer starts to think they are a little better than they actually are because they’ve received some accolades and praise and they even get so bold as to interrupt and start correcting you in class or questioning your methods or choreographic choices? Or you may have experienced it where they possibly even blurt out unsolicited suggestions, etc? Yep…I’m sure you all have seen it once or twice, and let’s be honest…it can be infuriating and extremely disrespectful.
While every dancer, oh…I would say especially in that tween age bracket or that senior dancer with the large ego seems to test the waters every once and again, as teachers it’s important that we remember there is a fine line and balance we have to maintain. We have to keep our cool and not let it look like it’s even phasing us. While we don’t want to stifle their achievement we also want to remind them they can’t ride on their glory…they must continue to work hard and fly right. As we already know as professionals, you’re only as good as your last gig! But, we are dealing with tender ages here so there is a sensitivity that needs to exist. However, when this behavior starts to get out of line, alternatively, we must authoritatively make it known in our own way that this behavior is not acceptable.
For example: A student, we’ll call her Mary, interrupts the teacher in front of the whole class when she is giving choreography and says, “WHAT? That’s not right. That’s not what you gave us last week. Your counts are wrong and that’s not what we did.” The teacher (trying not to get fumed more than she already is) keeps her cool, smiles brightly, gives her an immediate sideways look and says, “Come here Mary. Are you correcting me? I think I’m pretty sure of the choreography I created in my own head. But thank you very much. Understood? Great.” *Insert even brighter smile.
It can be subtle like this, with a knowing glare and way in which we deliver our words that a child will “get it;” that what they’ve just done is unacceptable. Make your point and move on. Hopefully they get the picture. However that doesn’t always happen and if this “know it all” attitude continues, it’s time to be direct, sit them down and have a frank discussion about what is occurring. Remind dancers that humility and grace are necessary qualities for any great professional and in order for people to want to work with them, they require a good reputation. These lessons can and should start in the home-studio where it’s a safe environment to endure these growing pains, make some mistakes and learn from them before heading out into the big world! Good luck!
* For further info on Jessica Rizzo or to contact her, go to the “teacher profile” section or click here