Ideas and advice from our readers
Our youngest students often have many stories they are aching to share. Losing a tooth, eating pancakes for breakfast, falling off a scooter, or going up a shoe size—these stories represent the big adventures in their lives.
Of course, most of these stories do not relate to dance. Their telling can disrupt the flow of class and distract other students. As teachers, how can we help our students feel heard yet maintain order in the classroom?
I begin my classes for ages 3 to 6 with a brief sharing time. Once the lesson begins, if students are itching to tell me something I will say, “Hold your story.” They know this means I will find time to hear what they have to say. And I do—I always make sure to listen to the story, whether it’s while we are stretching, changing our shoes, or getting our stickers at the end of class. (I sometimes encourage students who are old enough to write to share their stories with me in a letter.)
The word “hold” carries a special meaning for our youngest students. They associate it with something precious, like a baby, a favorite blanket, or a cup of delicious juice. They know that when you put this item down, you do so with care. When they hear “Hold your story,” these little dancers instinctively recognize that you care for the stories in their lives and will hold them with purpose.
Because the students do not feel dismissed, they are willing to follow the expectations for the dance class. I have found that they do, indeed, hold their stories. —Robyn Hartley
For more than two decades, Robyn Hartley has taught ballet at several studios including the Midwest Conservatoire of Dance. She is the artistic director of Kaleidoscope Dance Theatre and a blog contributor for The Ballet Source.