As studio owners we all have those students we’ve trained from the time they could walk. We have molded them, nurtured their technique, taught them classroom etiquette, celebrated their accomplishments and wiped tears during defeat and injury. When they arrive at that pivotal age where they are about to “leave the nest,” but are still at the very beginning stages of their dance career, the idea of having these “mini-me’s” transition to teaching is something all of us has considered
On the surface it seems like a logical transition; especially if these students understand your expectations and the way in which you go about your training curriculum. Realistically, they have had the extensive training themselves. They have seen how your faculty teaches, the material covered, etc. But is that enough? On the flip side, doesn’t the the skill set and requirements for being an effective teacher and choreographer take years and years in itself to develop and learn? So, is a 17 year old really capable at that stage of their dance career to be catapulted into a permanent faculty role? I’m not so sure. Think about this. A lot of times, we see older students teach baby classes; when that is probably the most crucial and difficult age level to teach for a number of reasons. Factors including knowledge of developmental information, classroom management, age-appropriate material and lesson sequencing are all hinging on whether a pre-primary or creative movement class is successful and the children at this tender age respond to the teacher at hand. Now I’m not talking about subbing here and there, but, the intricacies of this age-bracket takes years of study to understand, so why is it one’s first impulse to take our older students and assume the thought of “well, let them teach the baby classes.” In truth, this move can be more detrimental to your business than you think. Think of the ramifications if these student-teachers don’t know how to handle the delicate situations which are inevitable with groups such as these. How will your business then be perceived by your parents? We all know that it is the up and coming generations which are most important to keep your business thriving. So, what then happens if your creative movement program does not reflect the importance of establishing proper foundations (balanced with entertainment and recreation) simply because your teachers don’t yet have the tools to deliver a class such as this?
There are ways to go about this though. And conversely it is important to give those promising up and comers a chance to understand the art of pedagogy and have the opportunity to have practical experience; especially if they demonstrate a proclivity to teaching. So what is the best way to go about this? Think about it in terms of the way you went about their technical training. They need to see it, live and absorb it first hand; watching you to follow in your footsteps. In the same way you spent many years teaching them the correct way to perform movement, it takes time to show them how to teach….effectively. If in fact you do have a student or two who you would like to take under your proverbial “wing,” think of the best way to set them up for success. Do you perhaps have an internship program designed; where student-teachers are active assistants in certain classes and genres and supported by a faculty mentor? Perhaps once the students reach a certain point, they, at the discretion of the mentor and yourself can lead an observed class where in which they will receive feedback and notes based on their performance. This allows for direct communication with the mentor, studio owner and the student-teacher and helps to develop their growth while still maintaining the authoritative presence in the class.
Providing opportunities for your dancers to develop as teachers is a wonderful effort and should be something offered in your studio. The problem develops when these aspiring teachers are cast into the ocean without the tools necessary to swim. The direct impact unfortunately is then directly associated with your business. So, it is up to you to sit down with faculty and devise a solid, teacher-training program which will set them up for success and give them the blueprint for going on to immerse themselves in the higher education necessary. Education goes beyond teaching steps when it comes to our students, so remember to offer pedagogy with the same attention and respect we give to our beloved dance art form as well.
See you in the dance studio,
“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” ~Albert Einstein