You are now a dance teacher. You love dance and children. You spent many years learning how to dance and have a good grasp on technique. Now you are ready to teach or have been teaching for a while. Does that mean that you are finished or complete in your training?
Never stop learning. I believe very strongly about this. Whether it is in my dance training, my teaching or in my personal life I can’t ever imagine a time where I will feel like I am complete. There is always room to grow. I continue to take dance classes, perform and research teaching techniques. It is not only because I feel I owe it to my students for their growth but learning new ideas just helps classes run more smoothly. The more I know the more my classes are fun, engaging and easy!
I had a teacher that had a challenging class a couple years ago. This was a class of students around 9-12 years old. This class was basically unmotivated and the teacher was frustrated. Sometimes with preteens motivating them can be a challenge because this is when children start to feel self-conscious. They are less willing to go all out like younger students because they don’t want to look silly. At that age children also take on more activities and have more homework therefore they could be very tired by the time to come to class.
I tried to talk to this teacher to help her find new ways to motivate her class but she truly felt she had done all she could. She tried her best and that was that. Her words and tone made it clear to me that she was not interested in learning. She just wanted to be told that there was nothing more to do. She did more talking than listening.
This attitude was disappointing. Sometime it does feel like no matter what we do as teachers we just can’t get our class to be motivated, listening or improving. It may feel like we have tried everything and nothing works. But I know that there must be an answer. There has to be something I haven’t tried yet. All I have to do is find it. It can be one idea or a combination of ideas. One week one idea may work and the next week it doesn’t. It is work to find out how to reach your students.
That is what being a teacher is all about. We can think it is just about presenting the material and believing our students will just soak it up. Oh, if it were that easy! We can’t just present the material, we have to figure out ways that make learning interesting and fun. Sometimes your students will eat up whatever you dish out but sometimes they won’t. What can you do to engage them? How can learning be fun and easy. The only way to find out is to keep learning and growing ourselves. How do we do this?
1. Keep taking class. Try to take class every now and then. I know for myself with kids and a job finding time to go take a class is hard. But I feel it is necessary for a few reasons. First, to keep myself in shape. When I take class I am moving more than when I am teaching. I am practicing skills over and over, stretching more and dancing full out. Second, I am improving my technique. Practicing and getting tips from other teachers who can see things that I can’t see on myself is very helpful. Proper technique is necessary when demonstrating skills to your students. As I get older I feel good about the fact that my technique is better today than it was 20 years ago. Finally, I hear other ways that other teachers present the material. It is great when I hear something new from my teachers that is helpful and I can take back to my classes.
2. Keep learning new teaching skills. We will never have a perfectly run class every single time. When we meet a student that puzzles us from time to time it is a great opportunity to learn from that. I had one recently that took me sometime to figure out. She was only three and very shy sometimes and very outgoing the next. Usually you can get a pretty good sense of a student and whether they land more on the shy or outgoing scale but with this little girl I would never know who I was going to get. And she could change without a moment’s notice. This was new and I took it as a fun challenge! Like I mentioned in the first point, taking class and hearing other teachers teach is great, talk to other teachers to get advice and read books on teaching tips.
3. Keep performing if you can. Students can learn to dance just for fun but dance is also meant to be shared with others. Most teachers are preparing their students for some kind of performance. If you can keep performing from time to time it will help you remember what that feels like from the inside out. Then you can take those valuable experiences and bring them to class.
Like I said, we learn so that we are able to fully present our material to the best of our abilities. Teaching dance is different than teaching math. It is very active and we as teachers must keep up physically and mentally. We have to keep going so we are able to teach for years. I recently met a teacher who was still teaching at age 80! Keep using your mind and body. Learning new dance and teaching skills will help keep you moving longer and help your brain stay young longer. Keep challenging yourself and growing.
Never give up for the sake of your students. They will love you for it!
For more information on my books:
How to Teach Preschool Ballet: A Guidebook for Teachers
Creative Movement Games for Preschoolers: Incorporating Props