When I was a ripe young dance teacher, I watched students from other programs and studios, during performances. I often thought to myself, “If I can get my students to do those skills, we will be amazing.” I quickly brought these admired skills into my dance classroom, eager to ensure my students were on the same level as students in their age bracket.
I spent hours drilling those skills, but I was often left feeling defeated, insecure, and inadequate. The problem was my students were beginner/ intermediate, and the students I wanted them to emulate were intermediate/advanced.
I spent years fighting this uphill battle, but one day I asked myself - “Why is it so important that my students be on the same level as their peers? What are my students getting out of being taught skills out of their range? Why do I define “amazing” by what others can do?” And then it hit me, I was an ego-driven dance teacher. I wanted nothing but the best for my students, but I was measuring success by what other students in other programs were able to do, not focusing on my students and their needs.
13 years later, after tons of self-work, maturity, and reflection, I was able to chip away at those rigid expectations. I shifted my mindset and began practicing these principles...
Redefine Amazing: From time to time I check in with myself, making sure my definition of amazing is based on my student population. Sure I want my students to excel, but I have to continuously check-in and remind myself, to practice patience. Rome wasn't built in a day, and I can't expect their technique to be either. I often say to myself, "where my students are is ok, I am a good teacher, and my students’ success is not based on what other programs and studio are able to do."
Back to Basics: I continuously deconstruct the skills I see more advanced dancers doing. I focus on the basic mechanics of each skill and teach my students from that place. By the end of the season, some of my students are ready for the advanced skills, but most are still on the basics, and I’m ok with that, because I redefined “my amazing”, and now see excellence for each child on an individual basis, rather than as a class whole.
Differentiating Instruction: I became really acquainted with my frienddifferentiating instruction.I often have 1 or 2 students in each class that are ready for advanced skills. Instead of teaching those skills to all of my students, I create lessons that speak to all levels in my class. This allows me to challenge those who are ready and most importantly create space in my classroom for beginner students to feel successful.
For more learning on the go check out “3 Things I Wish I Told My Younger Dance Teacher Self” Episode 35 of the Dance Boss Podcast Listen Now
Erin is your personal dance education coach. Jersey girl all the way, she graduated from Montclair State University with a B.F.A. in Dance and received her Masters in Dance Education from New York University. Erin is a dance classroom expert and specializes in lesson planning, unit plan design, and curriculum creation, as well as classroom management strategies. She has over a decade of experience teaching, writing curriculum, and developing programming. Erin is the Director of a High School Dance Program in New Jersey, and the Host of the Dance Boss Podcast. To learn more about Erin visit erindpride.com, and you can hang out with Erin onInstagram andFacebook.