7 tips how NOT to be a great balletteacher.
Looking for tips how to become a great balletteacher? Then definitely try to filter out these 7 bad habits and become the best teacher you can be. Being aware will make you better. I am sure you wil recognize these and have experienced them for yourself when taking class. Have fun.
1. Come in late, always.
You know the type. The students are standing by to start. They are all warmed up and anticipating the start of their class. It is time, and then five minutes pass. And still no teacher. But what is worse, the group is used to this. Because their teacher always runs into class at least 10 minutes late.
Do not be this person! Have respect for your students (and your pianist) to be on time, always. They are paying for class and are there to learn from you. The least you can do is show up on time. As a teacher you set the example for the rest. Or are you okay with your students running in late?
To give an example:
Last year I had a class in which the dancers were unable to come on time for the last two months. For various reasons. This was frustrating for me. Class started at 19.00 hours and then 5 minutes before the start only 2 dancers would be in the studio. At seven o’clock another 2 would show up, then 3 more five minutes later. And two more at 19.10 hours. And one at 19.15 hours. This repeated itself for 2 whole months. I was always on time and was waiting around for them. They obviously were not serious about taking this class. Because if you really want to do something right, you make it happen and be there on time. So I decided to stop teaching this class, because I take my profession seriously.
Lastly, you can imagine the other way around. Students quitting your class because you are always late. Don’t let it come to that. Be a professional and take your work seriously. And, I mean, coming late once or twice can happen due to unforeseen circumstances. But more? Then you are just sloppy and not that into it and beter spent your time elsewhere.
2. Check yourself in the mirror. A lot.
Three years ago I went to a dance conference in Russia. Ready to follow a Vaganova masterclass. However, it was disappointing. The teacher was constantly looking at herself and checking herself in the mirror. And she didn’t give us the time of day. Needless to say we all felt neglected. Plus we felt it was a waste of our time and money.
So, please don’t be a diva. Pay attention to your students. It is about the class and not about your ego. Keep an open view and make sure you see your whole group. Make eye contact with every one of your dancers. Have open, clear and friendly communication. Act as a teacher, because you are.
In other words, make sure you have everything in place and look professional before you start. That way you don’t have to waste your time, and more importantly your students time, on fixing your hair and clothes. Again, you are a role model. Therefore be aware of your behavior.
1. Be too nice.
This teacher wants to be likeable, but at the risk of wanting to be nice, the teacher seems indifferent and gives out empty compliments. Your students want real and constructive feedback. They are waiting for you to give them that. Students feel neglected and will feel that there is no real progress, if you are being too nice. Obviously you have to be civil, polite and give genuine compliments.
There are always points to work on.
And it is your job, as a great balletteacher, to address them and fix them. Try it. You can do it without flip flopping to the other side and be rude and offensive. Be aware of what you are saying and with what body language. Try to read your student and adjust your way of giving corrections and firm feedback to their individual way of learning.
And as with many things, practice makes perfect. It is trial and error. If some feedback does not land or a student reacts badly, then adjust, try again (apologize if necessary) and move on. And don’t forget to genuinely give a compliment when you see the student listened to the feedback and made progress accordingly.
4. Have a favorite student.
That teacher that is always complimenting the same student. Making an example of this student. And be extremely obvious about it.
Shame on you! Like with tip number 2, you need to have an open view and you need to see your whole group. You are not there for that one “dream” student. Every dancer in your group wants to be a part of the training. Therefore, make a comment, smile or give a little wink to every dancer. Every dancer wants to be acknowledged and seen by the teacher. Make sure they feel part of the class.
After that, consider also that they will switch to another balletteacher because they feel they part of the experience. Also they are not making enough progress, because of the lack of your attention. So on your way in becoming the best teacher you can be, make sure you have this part covered. Acknowledge every dancer.
5. Be annoyed. All the time.
It is obvious that this balletteacher does not want to be there. This teacher is frustrated and can’t get over it. As effect, this teacher does not really look at the students and is unable to give positive feedback. There is an atmosphere of fear and dread. And that is never a good working and growing environment.
However, there are also people who believe that a traditional ballet teacher should be like that. Grumpy, shouting to and maybe even hitting the students. Do not do this. Teaching ballet is not a dictatorship. Move your teaching manners to the 21st century. In this century the balletteacher is also a trainer and a coach, who helps the student get better through positive learning and feedback.
Keep in mind that every student learns differently.
Some need to be shown how to do a step, some have enough with an explanation. It is your job to make sure every student has a way of learning, making progress and achieving new goals.
You will create a prosperous and positive environment in which it will be perfectly fine whenever you need to be strict and give clarity on how things have to be done. Students will respect you and be appreciative for it.
6. Give away personal information and your personal feelings.
That balletteacher that comes in and starts telling everybody what she did in the weekend. Then the transition to concentration and the start of the class feels off. We can be very short about this: come on, the students don’t care. The class is not about you, but them!!
That teacher that doesn’t really listen to a students story and starts about her/himself. Again, very brief; don’t! The student wants to be heard, so at least have the professional courtesy and distance to let them.
Above all, keep it to yourself and have professional distance.
7. Talk too much.
Particularly the balletteacher that will go on about something they did or experienced in their own past. Or talks too much and too long about how a movement should feel or be executed. Giving out a lot of colorful images and gets all “floaty”.
Don’t get me wrong, an anecdote can absolutely help. But be sure it is brief, inspiring and is a didactic tool for their improvement. The story should inspire them to become better dancers. And at least help them with better executing the movements in that particular exercise.
In addition, don’t talk through the whole class. Students come to move. So keep the flow of the class going. Be sure your dancers stay warm, don’t let them cool of because you are telling stories.
Here you go, these are the most stereotypical habits of a balletteacher I can think of right now. Let me know some more in a comment below.
In conclusion, I have been all of them in the past 20 years. But not excessively. The key is to be mindful of your behavior towards your students. Be professional and put the needs of your students first. When you notice doing one of the points up in the text, then adjust your conduct. Your dancers come to have a good time and learn. And you are their teacher, coach, role model and sometimes even mentor.
Be aware, be a professional balletteacher and have fun.
Pssst….Would you like some help with this? Then contact me and we will do it together.