For many of us this is the time of year when are season is winding down and we are either immersed in the end of year performances or trying to recover from the pressures of producing choreography that makes our students shine. Now is the time to take a deep breath and reflect on the season.
Looking back always helps us to move forward in a more positive way. How did you feel that your year went? Did you accomplish all the things that you set out to do at the beginning of the year and were you happy with the results? If the answer to those questions is yes then you should give yourself a big pat on the back for a job well done and plan to do more of the same next year. If you feel that perhaps some things could have gone better or that you did not manage to accomplish all that you set out to do, then this is the perfect time to get your plans in gear to become better prepared for the next year.
Take a good look at your class plans and find where you feel you struggled to give your students all of the information that you wanted them to have and then analyze why you struggled. I know for myself there are times when you have students that either just don't want to study or are having difficulty with the material. This is when it is so much easier to teach from a syllabus because it sets clear guidelines for both the student and the teacher and also makes the different levels clear. If you don't already work with a syllabus I heartily recommend you to do so because then you have a good base to work from and it will definitely make it easier to make sure your students learn the appropriate technique for whatever level they are at.
Giving your students handouts with a list of steps and terminology that they need to know at the beginning of the season is often very helpful and gives the students a good feeling once they have mastered those steps. It also helps to give your students a goal to learn the material by a certain time. I like to test my students periodically and have them do a series of steps or a certain pirouette combination or anything else that I have been working on. I do these tests randomly in class and don't give my students any warning of when I am going to ask them to show me what they have learned. The students actually like showing me and even those ones who are nervous because either they haven't practiced or just don't understand what you are teaching them realize that I can really help them to master the steps if I can see for sure that they are having difficulty. Sometimes by putting them on the spot they really rise to the occasion and it also gives them a good reason to study and practice.
Finding a good syllabus for all styles of dancing is well worth the effort and definitely worth getting a certification for it. There are a number of good Ballet Syllabi available for teaching Children from the Royal Academy of Dance to the American Ballet Theatre to Cecchetti, just to mention some of what is available. There are many great syllabus for Jazz, Modern, Tap, Lyrical Jazz, Pre School, the list goes on and on, the key is to find one that you can work with. I recommend Dance Teacher University that has a terrific curriculum that is new and fresh. As with all syllabi a good teacher will use it as a format and guideline and then take it further. What it gives both you and your students is structure and that can only be helpful.
Make a plan to get some new ideas for class work and choreography to not only stimulate your students but you also. Come up with some fun ways to change your classes up from time to time so that they are not always predictable for your students. It will definitely help them to be in a better learning mode because they will never be absolutely sure ahead of time what you are likely to come up with.
Use your down time to relax and it will be a lot easier to come up with some new ideas to get you sailing through the next year.