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I believe that the most effective way of learning dance is when the teaching philosophy between parents and teachers are in alignment. That said, I would like to share some of my experiences and values with each of you so that we can make dance class the best possible experience for our children…
NO COMPARING: It is important to me that when I teach your children, I do not say ‘Do it like her’ or ‘See, she is doing it so much better than you’. I feel that each child is so beautifully unique and as soon as we compare them to another, we limit their potential and creativity to that of someone else. Instead, I try to say ‘Student A is pointing her toes really well.” I did not compare, I just observed and described…
5 POSITIVES FOR EVERY NEGATIVE: This is a rule we have in our home which is quite challenging to reach but is a gentle reminder to make sure to tell our children what they are doing well and not only what they need to keep working on. This is a work in progress goal for me; when providing constructive feedback, I do try to start or end with something great that they did as well. Ex: ‘Great Expressions! Now let’s get those toes to smile more too - POINT THEM!’ ;)
CONGRATULATE EFFORT ALWAYS! Even when our children make mistakes and could do some steps better, I like to remember to point out how hard they are working on something. Ex “I can tell you are working really hard on those turns, please make sure to find your spot and listen to the music - your beat is not quite right yet.”
TEACH ACCOUNTABILITY - CAUSE & EFFECT - “IF....THEN”: At the end of the day, we need to make sure our students are challenged and growing. So when I notice that a student is not keeping up with something, I speak to them about what I expect for them to practice during the week and I also discuss consequences if they do not choose to do that. Ultimately, I am not the one in control - THEY ARE! Ex: ‘you do not have your kick ball changes corrected by next class, I will take you out of that part in the dance.’ Who is control of the outcome - Teacher or Student? Student!!!
FAILING IS GREAT: It is extremely important to make our children learn to love failure - that is when they really Learn & Grow. I am human and sometimes I do raise my voice. But experience and life has really taught me that Compassionate Communication is much much more effective. In so, I try to correct our students mistakes with calm and compassionate communication (most of the time ;). You can be stern and direct without raising your voice or being hurtful. However, after 2+ mistakes of the same exact thing over and over again calls for an IF-THEN discipline approach. Ex: “you do your turn on the wrong leg one more time, I will need you to go to the side with your TA and work on your turns for the rest of class today.”
INSPIRE THEIR WILL: If your child is in a L2 or higher class level, your child should ideally be wanting to practice their dances at home. My parents were extremely hands off in regards to dance, they nurtured my passion completely but I don’t remember them pushing me to practice or telling me everything I messed up on when I performed (trust me! no one knows all the mistakes made better than the dancer themselves). I was self motivated to practice constantly and my teachers always had high expectations of me - which I wanted to meet on my own will. If you feel your child does not want to practice in between classes, her are some suggestions that come to mind:
Create some space in their week for them to practice… like Monday evenings 5-6pm. Make sure they have an ipad or laptop available at that time to practice with, set it up for them if you need to. And try the IF-Then approach. Ex: “Here you go - you can practice for your dance now. Remember that If you don’t use this time to practice, then you may not be able to grow as a dancer and be able to learn new steps next week. If you need any help with anything, let me know.” Then just go to another room. Don’t watch them, don’t correct them. (For some students once a week practice may be enough, and for others it may need to be almost every day… you need to figure that out with your child)
Feel free to text/call/talk to me as you try this so I can make sure to stay aligned with you and make sure your child sees that you and I are connected in what we expect from them
If you feel like your child is getting stressed out or losing their love for dance or really just does not want to practice - don’t force them. Let them know they may not be able to perform if they don’t practice - which is totally OK. And if they are ok with that, then just let them come and learn once a week, meanwhile keep creating some space in the week for them to have what they need to practice, talk about the IF-THEN and wait for them to develop their own will to take control and initiative. I believe it will be so much more powerful if it comes from them and not you. That is when they will shine. (By the way, if they do choose not to perform, let us know RIGHT AWAY as we need to adjust formations)
Lastly, if they tell you they do not want to or like to dance - Listen :)
HUMILITY: I am very lucky in that I have had only a handful of students/families question the placement of the dancers in their formations. In those rare occasions that a student says ‘Yay, I am in center’ or ‘Boo, why am I in the back and not the front’, my automatic response is ‘If you are an amazing dancer, everyone will watch you and be hooked on you, regardless of where you stand. And if you want to be a leader and stand in front, you need to make sure that your team standing behind you respects you and likes you - and that won’t happen if they ever feel like you think that you are better than them.’ I do try to be as fair as possible with formations and it does bother me when I see us focusing more on being center of attention than working hard. My favorite definition of humility is ‘I am not better than anyone, and no one is better than me’.
FEELINGS ARE IMPORTANT: I would like to empower you to please approach me privately before or after class if ANYTHING in dance class ever makes them feel discouraged or sad. This is extremely important to me. I want to work more personally with each of you and teach in a more meaningful & impactful way and this step alone will help me do just that. They cannot dance to their full potential if their heart is not fully present and open.
Like your children, I am constantly learning how to do better and be better. I hope you were able to read the above with an open heart and know that all I have shared is limited to my own experiences and should only be considered in regards to your child’s DANCE education. I have had several parents ask me for advice in regards to many of the topics above and in so, was inspired to share my thoughts with each of you. I think it is impossible to see eye to eye on everything and impossible to be able to apply the above 100% of the time. I do feel that most of us are in alignment with the majority of our teaching philosophy and that is why our connection and culture is so strong. Thank you so much for taking the time to go through this with me and as always, I am open to any and all feedback/suggestions from each of you as that keeps me growing too…
With lots of love & gratitude,
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