I write a lot about how to properly end a dance class in my book, How to Teach Preschool Ballet: A Guidebook for Teachers. If you have not read it you can get your copy here! In my book I go into detail about how I end my preschool ballet classes and the other classes I teach whether it is a jazz, tap or musical theater class.
I am writing about it again now because I have been witnessing a teacher on a weekly basis that ends her classes in a way that I feel does not flow with the rest of her class. This is not a dance class but another class that I take my 6 year old daughter to. I like the teacher and like how she handles the rest of the class. The children are required to listen and participate. The teacher is light and fun with the children. She is encouraging and my daughter is learning a lot.
However, at the end of each class the teacher plays a game with the students that gets them all riled up. I know she does this because during class the children have been working hard and concentrating and at the end she wants them to be able to blow off some steam. Every good teacher knows that children should be able to have moments in a class where they can wiggle around freely and when they come back to the group for a more structured activity they are going to be better listeners. All classes should have times where they concentrate and focus on material and times where they get to be more free. Even as adults we need to have breaks every once in a while.
I don’t have a problem with her reasoning. What I do have a problem with is the way the game is handled and as the game is still going she says, “Okay, bye everyone! See you next week!” and class is abruptly over!
During the game she let’s the students jump all around and doesn’t make them stick to a particular movement. If you don’t jump in and lead them the kids will quickly start to do whatever they want. She will begin by telling them to bounce on one foot or gallop around but soon the kids are running and chasing each other and spinning each other around in her chair. This escalates until the class is over.
So what happens then? Class is now over and all the parents are trying to call their child to them when they are still horsing around and get them to leave the class. And every week the teacher says happily, “Oh sorry. I know I got them all riled up.” Yes, you did again! Now I am trying to get my daughter to listen, put on all her winter clothes and get out of the building calmly. You can guess how well that works.
As a parent this frustrates me so much. I don’t think it is an unreasonable expectation for a teacher to hand off your child to you on their best behavior. And it is not that hard to do.
In my book, I talk about how I end my classes by gathering all the children together and have them sit criss-cross apple sauce. I tell them what a great class we had and now it is time for stamps! They all come and sit down and then we talk about what we learned that day. I remind the students of my name and what specifically we worked on. Then I will ask the students to put one hand on their head and I give them a stamp or sticker on their hand. I also ask everyone to wait until all our friends have a stamp before we leave to find Mom or Dad. Then we walk out of the room quietly together to find a family member. We can do this creatively. We can walk out on tip toe like a ballerina. Or we can walk out like an animal if we pretended to be animals that day or fairies or whatever. I just always make sure we are walking out to the parents slowly and calmly.
I firmly believe there is a right way to end a class when you are teaching any class. Think of a professional ballet class that ends with a reverence or a yoga class that ends with Namaste. I feel a class is like a book. It should have an exciting beginning to get you interested, an engaging middle that keeps you wanting more and a good conclusion that wraps everything up. Don’t leave your class feeling left out in the cold. Teach the children how to properly and respectfully leave a class. The parents of your students will thank you for it!