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Taking the Ego Out of Dance Education

With Erin Pride  

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 friend differentiating 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 on Instagram and Facebook. 

November 12, 2019 — Erin Pride

Comments

Ni’Ayla

Ni’Ayla said:

Reading this article helped me, because while in class I get insecure, while watching other dancers. So when i’m given assignments, I don’t really step out of the box and be creative. Why? Well I think about what other dancers in my class can do and what I can’t. It’s make me sort of crawl into a shell. Now while reading this article it made me think while watching other dancers motive yourself, work harder so you can get to that level!

Lisbeth Tavarez Martinez

Lisbeth Tavarez Martinez said:

This Article reminds me how I see sometimes People’s technique and think I need to be at their level right at this very moment. But, as Erin Pride says, “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 need to be patient and trust the process every day, to achieve my personal goals as a dancer, Because otherwise, I am going to end up frustrated.

Tahgera

Tahgera said:

Tahgera ~ I believe Ms. Pride does everything she can to make sure her students are working to the best of their ability. She doesn’t push us to do things we can’t do, she works with what we can do and helps us get better at it. I feel like Ms. Pride is an excellent teacher and is motivated to help not only me but my fellow classmates to advance in our dancing. When i’m in class and we’re going over an exercise and I do a movement wrong she doesn’t get aggravated or mad she helps me and makes sure my structure is correct.

Brianna Ramos

Brianna Ramos said:

I love the way you changed your way of thinking. Even though students love to dance doesn’t mean they are technically there in their dancing. I loved when you said you had to “redefine amazing” just because all students aren’t at advanced doesn’t mean they are amazing and for you to adjust yourself to fit their level and still believe in them is what makes a teacher amazing and that’s what you are.

Ravyn Hutton

Ravyn Hutton said:

I like how you took a step back and realized how you were teaching and changed it so that way everyone was getting taught at the same level that they were comfortable in, and even though other kids are more advanced they can still reflect on basic techniques and become stronger dancers.

Exaliz Arocho

Exaliz Arocho said:

I love this article! It helps to show how you can provide different skills for different students in a classroom. It was interesting to see a teachers point of view and how much time goes into a day of teaching. I loved the part about Rome because it tells people to be patient and I love it.

Azhane Brown

Azhane Brown said:

I found it very inspiring to see that despite the fact that all of the students are not at the same level, you still were able to create lessons that would challenge everyone to the same caliber. I understand that it could be hard to stay motivated to get every dance on the same level but to see you trying is what makes it worth it.

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