September 2015 | Collective Wisdom


Ideas and advice from our readers

Reality Check: Teacher Transitions

Collective1Q: I’m three years in, and it’s happening: I just put out our schedule for next year, and some of the young students I’ve taught will have different teachers. Enrollment has gone from 25 to 150 in three years, so naturally I can’t teach them all anymore. I’m starting to hear parents say, “We come here for her.” Most of these parents don’t know the other teachers, so I will be introducing them, making bios available, and holding meet-and-greets. What more can I do to convince them to trust my judgment in selecting a faculty? They will have me as a teacher again in a year or two. (I teach all levels, but there are multiple classes in each level.) I would appreciate advice on how to navigate the next month during early enrollment. I cannot continue spreading myself too thin. —Chrystie Kenny Greco

A: Your excitement will be contagious! Saying things like “I am so excited for you to have Miss Sue next year! She’s so great at tap rhythms,” etc., will start a ripple effect of excitement. —Kate Lenaway Undercoffer

A: Tell them, “To excel in dance, students should never have just one teacher. They must train with other high-quality teachers to be well versed in various styles and methods.” Then go on to tell them how selective you are being with your hiring, and that you will be monitoring the staff to ensure a successful transition for the dancers. Best of luck. —Doreen Oros Freeman

A: Have new teachers sub for you. Students, teachers, and parents get to meet each other, and you get time for year-end stuff. —Nicole Erin Vanderwall

Classroom Connection: Ballet Obstacle Course

Collective4I came up with this activity because our focus of the month was “pathways.” I thought this was an opportunity to hone my ballet students’ focus and to offer a fun alternative to the usual ways in which they travel across the floor. It works best with dancers ages 6 years and older. Younger students may have a difficult time understanding and doing the activity unless you choose easier steps and paths.

Students have three routes to navigate in order to complete the obstacle course. The first is a straight line, which I delineate by taping thick, colorful yarn to the ground. I place one large dot halfway down the line. (The first time I played this game was in November, so all the materials I used were decorated with fall colors and patterns.)

The dancers are asked to do a “dancer walk,” leading with a tendu devant in each step, all the way to the dot. They then do four sautés on the dot, then continue with their walk down the line to complete this part of the course.

Once the straight line is completed, the dancers move to the zigzag. I place objects—in the fall I used small pumpkins—in two rows so that navigating between them creates a zigzag pattern. The dancers do chassé à la seconde to negotiate this route.

The last pathway is created by arranging a paper chain in a wavy line across the floor. Dancers do a step passé walk along the path all the way to the star at the end, where they hold their favorite ballet pose for a count of four to complete the obstacle course. The students love this activity and often ask to do it again. I give corrections; then if there’s time, we repeat the activity. —Ellen Dyer