Dance teachers are so much more then what we appear – it is never just about dance.
Here are a few of my thoughts based on my 38 years of teaching.
Disciplinarian; there must be acceptable behaviour in the classroom; good manners must be used towards the teacher and fellow students. All students should say thank you to their teacher before leaving the classroom.
If a dancer is late to class they should knock before entering or wait until they hear the music stop. They should not disrupt the entire class with their arrival. Students who act out in your class need to understand it is not acceptable – you should insist on their respect.
Educator: Everyone learns differently, as we observe them in class we see how our students respond. Some students are very visual and watch closely as to how you perform the step. They are able to make their own corrections as they listen attentively to what you say. Some students are tactile and respond to your guiding touch, a hand on the back or a gentle pushing down of the shoulders.
Psychologist: Sometimes our students are “off”. They just don’t seem to be themselves. It never hurts to ask them if everything is ok. I once brought to the attention of a teacher some home challenges a student was having; the teacher replied that she was not “a psychologist”. We may not have degrees in psychology but we do need to understand and have compassion for our students. Our kind words may be enough to help them cope and have an escape in the dance class. I have read many excellent books on personalities and by recognizing these character traits in my students I can sometimes “customize” my approach.
Choreographer: Many of us do our own choreo, we study styles and trends and set on our students what flatters them. We know our dancers best and want to show them in their best light.
Costume Designer: Choosing fabrics, colour and styles that flatter your students is as important as the choreo you set on them.
Business Manager: Whether you own the studio or are a staff member you need to manage your career. While studying theatre at Sheridan one of my electives was typing. I did not want tot take this class. I smugly told the teacher that it was of no use to me. She very quickly responded” Who is going to type your resumes while you are a struggling actor”? Touche! The hours I spend pecking out e-mails on the computer remind every day of the importance of these skills.
Other skills: You will draw upon all the education that you have in some way. Another colleague of mine has her ECE (Early Childhood Educator) She has a unique way with children and draws upon her ECE training on a regular basis in the class room. This skill has shaped her teaching. Early in my career I obtained my fitness certification – the knowledge of first aid, human anatomy and class dynamics have all benefited me tremendously.
I hope you can see now why I say I’m not just a dance teacher.