Many studios use their older senior teens to assist in classes or sometimes as a substitute. Very often these older teen dancers do a good job for you because you have trained them and they know exactly how you like classes to be run and therefore are an asset. These may be dancers who are obviously not going to become professional performers, but may be very well suited to becoming a teacher. By mentoring them and showing them how to assist in classes with more experienced teachers, you will give them a strong beginning to a possible teaching career with the idea that one of these young assistants could come back to your studio to be a valuable member of your faculty.

Many studios use their older senior teens to assist in classes or sometimes as a substitute. Very often these older teen dancers do a good job for you because you have trained them and they know exactly how you like classes to be run and therefore are an asset. These may be dancers who are obviously not going to become professional performers, but may be very well suited to becoming a teacher. By mentoring them and showing them how to assist in classes with more experienced teachers, you will give them a strong beginning to a possible teaching career with the idea that one of these young assistants could come back to your studio to be a valuable member of your faculty.

Teaching Teacher Trainees: It is, of course, extremely helpful if each of your classes has its own syllabus. This helps the trainee understand the logical progression of each class that they assist in from a technical point of view. Obviously a young teacher trainee will not be given any intermediate or advanced classes. Most likely he or she will be given a young, beginner jazz or a preschool class to help with. I have found that, when working alongside an experienced teacher, teacher trainees are able to assist actively in the classes and as a result start to understand how important the control and class management issues are. By assisting a variety of different teachers they become aware of how each one has his or her own individual way of interacting with the students. They are able to absorb how important the discipline of each class is. Ultimately these trainees also become better dance students as they are made more aware of the teachers perspective.

Here are some ideas on how to prepare a dance student for an assistant position.

Give the student the days and times of the classes that he/she will be required to assist.

Let them know the type of dancewear that you will want them to wear to assist, with suitable shoes. I always insist that the hair is off the face in a suitable style for the girls and I also suggest that they wear a light makeup in order to appear more professional.

Make sure they understand that they need to be at the studio, ready to assist 15 minutes before the class starts. Parents always feel more comfortable if they know the faculty and assistants are there ahead of time, plus if anything needs to be set up in the studio for the class they can do that for the teacher.

Having a good disposition and smiling at the young dancers usually goes without saying, but I always go over the importance of having the right attitude because if they have an early morning class on a Saturday they may not be in the mood to smile. I explain to them that teaching is like a performance and must be approached with an upbeat personality.

If the trainee will be assisting more than one class, I encourage them to carry a small notebook with them to write down the class content and the likes and dislikes of the teacher that they are assisting. It makes it so much easier to remember what is needed for each class and/or rehearsal. Have them get familiarize with the class content and meet with the teacher beforehand to find out exactly what is needed for each class.

Encourage them to go to a college that has a good dance program where they can also get a business degree. There are excellent BFA programs offered in different countries as well as here in the USA.

Mentoring Young Teachers: Nurturing the professional younger teachers on our faculty is equally important. Usually these teachers will have come from either a university or have simply graduated from high school and want to go immediately into teaching. Some may also have had a performing career and decided that they would like to transition to teaching. Whatever their background, they are all going to need support and ongoing training to help them be successful in their career and at your studio in particular.

Make mentoring a monthly must. Get them off to a great start by scheduling a one-on-one monthly meeting to talk about their classes and any ideas they or you may have to make them better. Perhaps they need help with constructing choreography or even class content. Maybe they are having difficulty with a particular child or there is a discipline issue that they are not quite sure how to handle. Whatever it is, knowing that they can meet with you to go over any of these topics will give them a feeling of confidence and support.

Address serious needs as they come up. Of course, some situations need to be dealt with immediately and cant wait for a monthly meeting. Establish a protocol for approaching you between meetings. There might be an hour each week that you leave open for teacher needs, or you might be able to carve out some time if they leave you a note or email you asking to talk.

Be sure to meet in a businesslike setting, not in the hallway between classes when youre both rushed and you may not be able to give your full attention. Taking a few minutes to meet in a quiet place to address their needs further communicates to the young teachers your commitment to help them succeed.

Encourage continued learning. A priority for all our teachers is attending summer teacher conferences where they can mingle with other teachers, share experiences and exchange ideas. The Royal Academy of Dance has an excellent teacher summer program as does American Ballet Theatre, American Academy of Ballet and the Cecchetti Society, just to mention a few that are ballet specific. Our conference this year in August at Lake Las Vegas will have an extensive variety of classes in all styles of dance to help teachers be better prepared and more experienced.

Nurturing our younger teachers is an important way to make our studios stronger and leave a legacy behind.