by Andrea Ekmark
When I started teaching dance, I also worked another job during the day to supplement my income. After one dance season, a full-time position opened at that studio that involved 20 hours of teaching plus administrative work. I was interested, but there was one catch—I would have to teach “baby classes.”
I accepted the position, but was nervous about teaching 3- to 6-year-old students. As a new teacher in my early 20s, I did not have experience with young children in any aspect of my life. I had several worries: what do you do with a 3-year-old? How do you speak to a small child? Can kids that age even dance? Is this nothing but glorified babysitting?
While it might seem like little ones can’t do much, think of it this way—they have everything to learn.
It’s a few years later, and I must admit I’ve fallen in love with teaching little ones. If you’re hesitant about teaching preschool students at your studio, here is why you should try.
The possibilities are endless. Young children are a blank slate. Most haven’t attended another studio so they don’t come with any baggage—no traumas or dramas—and the chance that they received improper training is low. You are the teacher who will help them fall in love with dance.
While it might seem like little ones can’t do much, think of it this way—they have everything to learn. Little ballerinas are excited to try basic ballet technique, and can repeat vocabulary back to you. There are unlimited variations of across-the-floor exercises that go forward, backward, or sideways. If you aren’t sure where to start, there are plenty of early dance curriculums available to help you plan your classes.
You will become a better teacher. Your imagination grows when you teach young children. At first, you must force your brain to come up with new imagery to get ideas across and redirection tactics to tackle problem behavior. Before you know it, you’ll come up with new ideas naturally and on the spot. The best thing is that this improved ability to come up with imagery and engage students will improve the skills you need to teach all age groups. You’ll be surprised at how similar preschoolers are to teenagers—both need fresh classroom ideas and a ton of validation.
Your career will thank you. From a business standpoint, those young students are the bread and butter of a studio. Their parents pay premium prices for short classes and there are plenty of parents eager to see their 3-year-old princess in a tutu. With so many teachers unwilling to teach the babies, you could end up adding classes to your schedule—even two to three babies classes per week adds up to 8 to 12 extra hours of income per month.
Don’t be shy. Even if you are nervous about teaching preschool dance classes at your studio, don’t be too shy to try. Assist other preschool teachers with their classes or help with a summer camp. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you fall in love with those little personalities, and you’ll be endlessly entertained by the things they say. Even better, you’ll become a more well-rounded and valuable employee by increasing your teaching skills.
Andrea Ekmark teaches ballet, contemporary, and jazz at Highlands Ranch [CO] Community Association.