“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.”
– Anatole France
Due the physical and mental demands it takes to achieve a high level of dance, it is important that young bodies and minds are nurtured with clear expectations and positive encouragement through the emotional up and downs of an art form such as dance. From the teacher’s perspective, we see the immeasurable potential in students and have no other mission but to awaken the mind and set it free through the education and expression of dance. Students often are distracted by the rigors or physicality of dance. Creating a motivated class room based in positive reinforcement and expression, will not only create a positive environment, it will create an environment conducive to learning and trying.
Motivation Definition – “The general desire or willingness of someone to do something”
1. Building Confidence: When you start to see resistance from your dancers, remember a lot of times that can be because they are afraid they can’t do it. They may have an attitude like they are too cool for school, but in reality they might just be truly afraid to try for a number of reasons. Building a strong foundation in their technique, performance and artistry will help them to understand how to put the puzzle pieces together step by step as they progress as dancers. Building their confidence by doing the things they can do, will create the motivation to keep trying as things do get harder.
2. Be Clear: When giving explanations, be clear about the specific instructions you would like followed and what expectations you have for your students. Let students know if you are expecting them to work on maintaining a neutral pelvis in ballet class, or dancing as their largest self and traveling across the floor in jazz class. Set your expectations in a way the students and parents know what to expect from you and your classes.
3. Thinking Critically: Most of the time we present students with a conclusion and then offer examples to explain. To mix it up, try to present the examples to students first and let them come to their own conclusion. “We start and end every ballet exercise in en bas in first position. Why do you think we do it this way?” Or, “I know practicing the same steps over and over seem boring? Why do you think we do so? Participating and engaging students in the lesson will stimulate analysis and synthesis skills as well.
4. Master minded goals: Creating methods of assessment of students skills other than things like competition scores or “tricks” will help individual students set and reach goals. Skill line improvement goals will help focus and work toward improving levels of mastery of skills needed, instead of scores or tricks needed. This can lead to them feeling like it is less of a personal risk throughout the learning process. If they focus solely on placement in the front row, top scores at competition or comparison to others, many times they will give up before even risking making a mistake to play it safe. Especially if the student feels their self worth is determined by those factors. Skill-based assessment and improvements encourages self-evaluation and motivates from within.
Many times teachers feel that they are giving in to students or “letting them win” if they decide to change tactics to peak students interest. You do not have to go against your principles to make minor course corrections in teaching to reach students. The consistency of everyone, the teacher included learning and growing, you create from the beginning will set the tone. Creating this environment will take some effort, but in the end you will see your students put more into their dancing. A flexible teaching style with clear expectations can create the atmosphere students crave and the desire to learn will increase.
“Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.”
– Warren G. Bennis