20 Oct The biggest mistakes dance teachers make
Being a dance teacher is not the same thing as being a dancer. Even if it involves some control of your body, rhythm, charisma and so on. It requires some extra skills. Just being a good dancer is just not enough to be a good teacher.
I decided pretty soon in my career that I wanted to focus on teaching. It came naturally to me. I just wanted to create stuff and then show it to people. I have pretty much done that since I started dancing but I really didn’t know what I was doing. It’s only after taking a course on teaching aerobics classes, there were no classes for hip hop teachers back then, that I started to understand the task at hand. I was making a lot of mistakes.
Back then, the preparation for my class was just pretty much making a choreo. I would put lots of time in making them and then proudly take it to class. The problem with this approach is that without a proper think through of how I was gonna deliver it to the students, I sometimes left a whole bunch of people confused. The more talented ones would eventually figure it out but the ones already struggling didn’t get the information they needed to be able to perform.
After taking the teacher training, I figured out I needed a plan. I started rehearsing what I was going to say, how and when I was going to say it. I would think about which parts of the routine where more difficult and needed more attention. It changed the entire energy of the class and I wasn’t losing any students anymore. The numbers even started to grow.
It’s crazy to believe that such a little thing could have such an impact. I felt empowered and much more confident teaching.
Lack of words:
In my teacher training one particular reflex annoys my participants. They don’t want to do it but they can’t help themselves. Standing in front of a group of people triggers this in lots of us. Even myself.
We use the same words or sounds over and over again. Let me give you an example. My go to word is OK. Whenever I feel stressed or insecure in class, I would literally put it at the end of every sentence. Then we do this ok.. Then we move that to here ok .. you guys get it? Ok.. Some students might not notice it but once they do, it gets annoying really really fast.
Another thing you probably do is using the same sound over and over again to explain your moves. You know how it goes.. : Ok let s start. So you arms do pam pam and then pam pam pam.. We’ve all done it and definitely have seen others do it. When explaining a movement it’s much easier for the student if we use actual words. Describe things. It’s ok to use sounds to point out rhythms but it shouldn’t be a substitute for explanations.
You being able to perform your stuff is one thing but to be able to call yourself a TEACHER, you need to be able to explain it.
Like we talked about in the previous video. Delivery is everything. It makes a class exciting or boring; clear or confusing. Part of your delivery is just in time teaching. Let me explain.
Just in time teaching is explaining the right content at the right time and at the right speed. This is a very hard thing to do because lots of things can influence it. Mixed level classes are hell for this. The advanced students need a challenge and the beginners need to feel like they actually can do it. This is a too often overlooked aspect of teaching.
Here’s what you should not do:
- Absolutely wanting to finish your routine even though your students are already struggling. The only thing you are going to achieve by doing this is ruining the peak of the class. Nobody will be able to completely enjoy their performance at the end of the class.
- Not keeping an eye on the clock. By not watching the clock closely, you might end up taking too much time in the beginning of the class and then rush the end of it, regardless of the students needs and feels.
- Not paying attention to the students. If you do not pay attention to your class, you’ll miss the important signs that they might give you. If you look around, you’ll notice the ones that mess up all the time or don’t understand a small portion of the routine. Without doing this, just in time teaching becomes impossible.
Having some up to date content to teach is crucial to stay relevant but sadly too little teachers take the time to take classes or training. Don’t get me wrong. I understand why. You are teaching so many hours, you might not feel like taking classes or maybe there are no (good classes) around or you teach at the same time others are teaching making it impossible for you to join. And so on .. and so on.. There will always be an excuse… except they aren’t valid anymore. You know have internet and therefore access to tons of interesting subjects. When I was younger, we also didn’t have internet and I sometimes had to go to another country to take classes. I did it out of passion and curiosity. Take responsibility for your own growth. You are in control of your schedule. Make time!
To be very clear, I’m not giving you advise to just survive in the industry. It’s advise to stand out and be on the top of your game. So get to class, be an expert in your craft. Pass the knowledge on to your students and watch them grow. It’s extremely satisfying.
A few years ago, a young girl came up to me after a workshop. I had seen her wait for about 15 minutes for me to finish taking pictures and talking to the students. She asked me if I remembered who she was and I was ashamed to say I didn’t. In my line of work, you meet a lot of people and I must admit that sometimes faces just vanish from my memory. She didn’t take offense. She apparently took my class two years earlier at a dance camp. I had talked to her after class because I had seen some potential in her and she clearly didn’t use it. Het self esteem wasn’t high enough for her to let go. She was holding back. The memory came back to me. Yes! I remembered.
“ you saved my life” she said. That day changed everything. You believed in me. I am happy now. Wow!!!!! I had tears in my eyes. I would never have imagined having such an influence on someone. That day it sank in how much responsibility I have towards my audience. As a teacher, people look up to you. They look to you for guidance.
Like lots of teachers, I didn’t realise how powerful that was. But it filled me with shame too. How many times could I have shown the wrong example? Not that I think I really was but If a simple word after a class can change a life in such a positive way, I was wondering how much my little mistakes could influence in a negative way.
I needed to be an example. It wasn’t just a dance class any more. Whatever I would do or say would also have an impact outside of the class. In everyday life.
Not paying attention to your behaviour and leadership can result in disaster. Be the example and empower your students.
So here it is. Some pretty important stuff if you ask me. Definitely not all but I wouldn’t have time to cover all of it in just one article.
I will be posting more about teaching dance soon. Stay tuned.
Let me know in the comments what topics you would like me to cover.