This articles deals with general tips in relation to teaching, which will obviously be the first step in the process. Following articles will be a lot more specific and will focus on particular challenges, techniques, dance patterns...
The question of what makes a great teacher has been around for a long time. It’s an enquiry that poses many problems because there’s simply no set recipe for success, and different approaches work for different professionals and students.
One thing we know is that the quality of teaching has a big impact on the achievement of students. But defining effective teaching isn’t easy. Student progress is the yardstick by which teacher quality should be assessed.
Let’s start with the very obvious but sadly not always practice tip:
Expect to be challenged, expect to get into uncomfortable situations, this is the nature of working with human beings.
There is no excuse for being rude and it will only reflect badly on you.
I heard a quote ones: “Don’t argue with an idiot, he will bring you down to his level and beat you with experience”.
It has helped me on more than one occasion, once I realized that the idiot was usually my frustrated self!
This principle also may seem obvious, but the best teachers have a deep knowledge of their subject, and if that falls below a certain point it has a “significant impact” on students’ learning.
If you teach partner dance for example, regardless of your gender you should be able to demonstrate and teach both the leader and follower’s steps, patterns, role…
Studies have shown that knowing your subject is the singular most important aspect of successful teaching.
You should never enter a class unprepared. I am sure you know the old adage: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
A lesson plan is not optional, it’s a must! You should also be prepared to be questioned and taken in to unexpected directions.
A lesson plan does not mean you don’t have the flexibility to address the questions raised by the students even if they are off topic.
Look back over your life and ask yourself how you have learned anything.
The answer is basically straightforward: you learn through one or more of your five senses, e.g. through sight and hearing you learn how to read. Through the senses there is an inflow of information channeled to the brain, and here it is interpreted, translated by means of the intellect and then stored in the memory.
The senses contribute in varying degrees to the learning depending on what is taught and the process used.
This needs to be studied in depth but goes beyond the scope of this report. In our teacher’s course we have an entire theoretical lesson on this subject and it is the basis for our “Best Practice for Teaching” module.
Consider the Chinese proverb:
We learn something from what we hear
We learn more from what we see
We learn most from what we do
What I hear, I forget
What I see, I remember
What I do, I understand
Feedback is crucial to the student but it is very potent!
When giving feedback encourage and reinforce the positive first (70% of the feedback). Then give advice on the areas of possible improvement (30%).
It is important to reinforce the positive form several reason:
But be careful, the wrong kind of praise can be harmful for students. Praise is meant to be encouraging but if it’s not grounded in truth or if it is given too often and too easily it can actually “convey a teacher’s low expectations”.
Expect more and you will get it.
Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when teachers and dance schools hold high standards and make extra efforts.
Constantly demanding more while affirming students’ self-worth. A student’s success should be attributed to effort rather than ability.
By essence a teacher must be caring.
And patient, encouraging, enthusiastic, passionate.
These qualities will shape the teacher-student relationship. If you look back over your childhood you might have found memories of a teacher (or several). How would you summarise the quality of this teacher in a single word?
A word of caution, dance is a very social activity and is fantastic for creating and developing friendships but as a teacher, when you are teaching, be mindful not to be too “paly”. When you are teaching friends, you must put your teacher’s hat on!
These 7 principles are fundamental to forming a master teacher. You should study them and seek ways to improve as a teacher. Seeking perfection is futile. The secret of learning is to seek improvement.
We are all on this journey together, keep moving forward, one step at the time and don’t get distracted.
P.S.: Do leave a comment below and let me know what you think!