Ideas and advice from our readers
Reality Check: Absence Mindedness
I am hiring a new teacher; we are days away from making it final. She just told me that she will be away the first week of classes on a trip she’s had planned for a while, so she will not be able to teach her first night. She’s excited about teaching in a studio again with young kids and I am excited because it’s difficult to find a good hip-hop teacher in my area. How would all of you handle a prospective teacher missing the first night of classes? Do you think I should look for another teacher? —Chrystie Kenny Greco
If I were you, I would teach her classes for the first week. —Tammy Tropeau
If she told you as early as she could, then hire her, postpone the first class until the following week, and have her teach a makeup class the following weekend—unless, of course, you teach hip-hop. —Fran Ward LaKernick
Never cancel or postpone a first class. It sets a bad or negligent tone for clientele. Teach the class yourself and make it fun and positive. —Lisa Horvath
Perhaps you could do a meet-the-teacher ahead of the first day, maybe during one of your registration days. —June Lawrence
Maybe she can recommend a great sub with a similar style. But since the beginning of the year tends to be chaotic for most families, I would almost rather see you start the following week than have a teacher who will be anything less than amazing. Tell the families that their teacher is terrific and rather than not hiring her you’d rather they start the following week, with prorated tuition. —Suzanne DiVasto Citere
Classroom Connection: Reminders
By the time advanced students walk into my classes they know all the steps in the traditional ballet vocabulary. This is not to say they aren’t still learning. And I’ve found that one way to make sure they do so, consistently and continuously, is to use “reminding” tools: verbal cueing, asking, sharing, and touching.
Cue. Cueing is for more than keeping students on the right count. Concise verbal prompts remind students to pay attention to problems like sagging abdominals, creeping shoulder tension, or held breath. I rely heavily on cueing to keep my students working on concepts and fixing problems they already know how to fix—they simply need to be reminded.
Ask. One of the best ways to empower students in their knowledge is to ask, “What are the most common errors in a particular step?” Observant dancers should be able to see if they are doing any of those things. Ask them: “What are some possible solutions? What have you learned about this topic already?” Give them time to experiment with tips shared by their classmates, then have them try the combination again.
Share. Because of the daily struggles dancers face and the uncertainty of their future in the field, students must be reminded often why we dance: because we love it, because it is fun, because we can’t imagine our lives without it. If you can remember how you felt at this stage in the process, you will be more empathetic to their stress and able to provide the positive messages they need to hear.
Touch. When I lightly place my fingers on the back of an arm in second position, the student knows to lift the elbow. No explanation is needed. That simple physical reminder allows students to implement what they know. Efficiency is key—verbally cue the entire class about alignment or turnout, and add a physical reminder with individual students as you walk by them. —Kerry Ring