How To Be a Better Teacher
Have you ever found teaching a routine daunting? I have. Especially when teaching to my peers. Will they like the routine? Will it go smoothly? Will it look as good as I think it will?
Well I’ve been teaching routines for a decade now, and I’ve even developed a choreography committee within my team who gets to make up their own dances, teach them, and goes to conventions to learn and re-teach to the team. In this time, I have come up with some key pointers to make YOU a better teacher.
On the Agenda:
Connect the Dots
First let me re-emphasize the thing that might be glaringly obvious but must be said:
Prepare. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Make sure you have your formations mapped out for multiple scenarios. Count through areas of the music that are difficult to hear/anticipate. Think through how you are going to teach multiple parts etc.
Repetition: The hardest thing to do when you teach is plan to take breaks and where you want to repeat from. Make sure you map that out!
Connect the Dots. Avoid teaching in sections. Ever learned a dance that one part was consistently a brain burp for you? Typically that was a flaw in the teacher system.
Lastly, teach full out. We all learn differently. If you have visual and tactile learners (which most dancers are) if they learn it marked, it is a hard habit to break. If you are unable to demo work with a team member to be your assistant prior to teaching.
Now for the tips that really make you a stand out teacher:
Instead of counting 1-8 through the entire routine; use keywords to build the rhythm in the routine. I specifically remember routines to this day where the routine was counted “1 and 2, down up down, hit, hit, a 7 and hair.” This comes down to “if you say it, you can do it.” It’s important for memory to be able to appeal to more than just ‘count learners.’
I just touched on rhythm in the previous tip. This is HUGE. Make sure you are mirroring the movement you want in the routine. If you have a slow snake up from the floor and you want the group to really emphasize that pause. Count that way. Mirror the music. We always say - you drive the music, it doesn’t drive you. As a teacher you need to be able to convey your piece to the dancers in every way possible with a combination of visual AND audible cues.
Lastly, set an intention for your session that goes beyond the routine. I recently took a class from Janelle Ginestra and it left a lasting impact on me. I remember specifically someone asking a question about not being able to execute as well as others - and her response was “it doesn’t matter. We all have our special talents. You don’t have to be an amazing dancer to be a great teacher.” This is so true! You just need a positive environment, dancers with a fearless attitude, and entertaining choreography - all things that as a teacher, you have control over. Is your intention to make your dancers own this routine? Are you pushing character work? Facials? Technique? Set an intention for the routine that you can make an impact on your dancers. These are things I have seen in the best dance teachers.