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Trying to teach too much!


miss.pointe
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Maybe the experienced teachers and adult beginners/improvers can give me some tips:

 

I find myself getting so enthusiastic about teaching and remembering how much I like to learn and make progress and push myself that I think I sometimes make too many corrections or overdo on information and tips that I'm worried I'll overdo and scare people away!

 

Maybe this is something experience will just have to teach me, but I just want to get it right! :)

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Maybe the experienced teachers and adult beginners/improvers can give me some tips:

 

I find myself getting so enthusiastic about teaching and remembering how much I like to learn and make progress and push myself that I think I sometimes make too many corrections or overdo on information and tips that I'm worried I'll overdo and scare people away!

 

Maybe this is something experience will just have to teach me, but I just want to get it right! :)

 

I know exactly how you feel -eagerness and energy is good - overload is not.

 

It might help to know that generally speaking people only retain about 5% of what they are taught in any single ballet class. In addition individuals learn in several ways: by doing, by hearing and by seeing.

 

Also, a student might understand what you mean but not be able - yet - to do it.

 

And the reverse is true...the student might not be able to mentally understand it - yet - because he/she is not yet physically ready to attempt it. Or the concept just takes time to incorporate.

 

So - keeping all that in mind - the teacher has to adjust her expectations to what is happening in front of her. Pick something basic (like how to center balance - or how to use the floor for energy) and reinforce it with each exercise at the barre and the center combinations so the students can see how that basic concept is used and is helpful throughout the class work.

 

Thus - even though you have given them a variety of movement you've really emphasized one basic concept.

 

I do not believe in limiting the variety of movement - I think the body tires if it spends too much time on one particular type of movemet such as turns, or balance, or jumps. So vary the movement but stick to the basic concept which underlies the movement.

 

The teacher also needs to find a balance between interrupting the student who is trying to concentrate on one particular item with extraneous (but important) information. Some people have problems handling two streams of information.

 

But, on the other hand, if you set an exercise and the class is doing it incorrectly - then stop them - point out how it might be better done - and then let them do it. It doesn't pay to set an exercise and watch them do it incorrectly - and then correct it afterward when they no longer have a chance to incorporate your corrections.

 

Corrections should be positively stated: "That's wrong" - gives no information. "Why don't you try it this way" or "I think this might help," does give information. Also inform them when they are doing it correctly - that, too, is important information.

 

How you find the fine line between giving enough information and too much is something you will learn. Your energy and eagerness is what will carry the class - but remember - that energy and eagerness is for them - not for you. You have to give it away.

 

I also always found it a good idea - especially with beginners - to have something that sets them free. Some big movement where they can feel the excitement of the wind in their hair - and very little correction. Like chassé sauté arabesque going down the diagonal - to a big waltz. They need to also feel free.

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What about giving your students a questionaire to feed back how they feel the classes are going, they could put their names on them or remain anomynous. You may find that your students are really happy with your teaching style, but being a perfectionist it seems you will always worry. In my oppinion one way to find out is to ask the students. You sound so lovely and care so much about your students and I bet this shines out of you, all the best of luck.

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One tip I got from a very well known teacher was to only give one, maybe two corrections at a time so as not to overload the students. And having explained to the students what aspect I want them to work on I then repeat the exercise. No point in giving lengthy worthwhile corrections after an exercise only to then move on without letting the students get a chance to apply them if they are specific to the exercise being discussed.

 

It can also be helpful to have specific themes ie" today we are focussing on correct placement, turnout, posture, breathing, musicality, presentation etc " (not all in one go of course!!)

 

Do also remember to try and let the students just dance such as a grand allegro because the feeling of just dancing is so important. Sometimes I've seen very beautifully schooled children who really just can't "let themselves go" because they are being so careful that all spontaneaity is lost. And I also try to be in the positive camp ie instead of saying "don't lift heels off the floor" I say "heels down!"

 

Praise is good too. I remember being mystified by one group of girls every now and then holding fingers up to each other, turned out that they were having a competition to see who got the most "goods" from me!!!

 

Finally please remember very few teachers can please everyone, so don't be downhearted if some students don't stick with you. There are many reasons why students discontinue dancing, most of which aren't necessarily to do with the teacher.

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I remember my dd telling me that she got very frustrated during one particular lesson. They were working on a set syllabus dance for an exam, and the teacher kept stopping them a few bars from the end, over and over again.

 

She was hopping mad, and said that she would much rather have done the whole dance, had corrections and then been able to run through it several times. As it was, they never practised the ending at all that day!

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Oh dear, I remember my teacher doing that - not letting us finish the dance as a punishment I suppose for not doing it right!

 

I love how there have been suggestions of just letting them be free/fly/dance! So far in my adult classes I end with a more contemporary ballet-style dance where I encourage them to express themselves and not worry so much about perfect classical technique. When one of the ladies texted me to say they were going through the routine at home I was so pleased!

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I am sure that students differ as to how they like to be taught- my DS is used to (and expects) continual commentary and detailed individual correction, and can't bear it if he is in a class where the corrections or comments are more general or vague - so it sounds like he would be your ideal pupil! Whatever your style there will always be some who like it and others that don't- so maybe (bearing in mind the advice that positive encouragement is so important) you should be more proud of what you're good at and worry less that you're doing it 'wrong'!!

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I am sure that students differ as to how they like to be taught- my DS is used to (and expects) continual commentary and detailed individual correction, and can't bear it if he is in a class where the corrections or comments are more general or vague - so it sounds like he would be your ideal pupil! Whatever your style there will always be some who like it and others that don't- so maybe (bearing in mind the advice that positive encouragement is so important) you should be more proud of what you're good at and worry less that you're doing it 'wrong'!!

This is very good advice. Afterall I've known perfectly lovely teachers that others have literally hated, and vice versa! I do think its important to be true to yourself and accept that not everyone will necessarily like your style. A good teacher should be able direct students to other good teachers if necessary, for example sometimes a class dynamic may not be right for a very serious student attending class with less keen ones.

 

Having said that it pays to be adaptable so that classes are tailored to the students needs. My first class this morning was with a group of year 8s who'd bought along their own music to choreograph to. They wanted very little interference but by the time I got to senior boys tonight I was working on foot placement (boys do tend to prefer more precise detail) and having to give lots of individual encouragement and correction. I've also been to the seaside today with my "babies" , the jungle with year 4s and then tried to stop lots of hyper little girls from standing like gymnasts.... never a dull moment!

 

Communication of what you intend in the lesson helps, for example if you are having to rehearse a dance that doesn't include everyone then its a good idea to warn the class that 10 or so minutes will be spent on it and also then set the "watching" group a task be it some sort of exercixe , encouragement to also learn the dance or even help with positive ideas on how to improve it.

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This is very good advice. Afterall I've known perfectly lovely teachers that others have literally hated, and vice versa! I do think its important to be true to yourself and accept that not everyone will necessarily like your style. A good teacher should be able direct students to other good teachers if necessary, for example sometimes a class dynamic may not be right for a very serious student attending class with less keen ones.

 

Having said that it pays to be adaptable so that classes are tailored to the students needs. My first class this morning was with a group of year 8s who'd bought along their own music to choreograph to. They wanted very little interference but by the time I got to senior boys tonight I was working on foot placement (boys do tend to prefer more precise detail) and having to give lots of individual encouragement and correction. I've also been to the seaside today with my "babies" , the jungle with year 4s and then tried to stop lots of hyper little girls from standing like gymnasts.... never a dull moment!

 

Communication of what you intend in the lesson helps, for example if you are having to rehearse a dance that doesn't include everyone then its a good idea to warn the class that 10 or so minutes will be spent on it and also then set the "watching" group a task be it some sort of exercixe , encouragement to also learn the dance or even help with positive ideas on how to improve it.

 

Being adaptable to the needs of the students is great advice - afterall that's what it is about isn't it?

 

I was invited to teach a series of "guest" classes of differing levels at a vocational school. In one class I had planned a particular grand allegro en diagonal which began with waltz turns. The enchainement was fairly lengthy and was supposed to be the final grand pas ending the class. However, I quickly discovered that the students had not been taught waltz turns at all! At their level they certainly should have encountered the step.

 

Well, no sense going on with the entire enchainement if they had no knowledge of how to do the opening choreography. So, I quickly disgarded my plans and we spent the last segment of the class learning this important component of ballet vocabulary. I think some teachers become enamored and married to the plans they formulated ahead of time and are unwilling to deal with the facts before them.

 

The teacher has to respond to what is before her. One has to be willing to let go of what she planned to do and do what has suddenly manifested itself as necessary to the moment.

 

This is true of interacting with the students, too. As you get to know them you will become aware of days when a particular student is ready and willing and other days when they are less so. They do have lives outside the studio and sometimes that has to be taken into account. I'm not saying one needs to assess mood all the time - but it is a factor.

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Plans are made to be broken!! I can probablycount on the fingers of one hand the classes that went exactly as planned as I much prefer to respond to whatever is before me. However I guess that years of experience has given me the tools to deat with all sorts of situations and people. Probably one of the main things I've learnt is that you can't please everyone!

 

Anyway having re read the original post on this thread asking for advice, I'd like to say please try and address all your students by name (in an encouraging way!) at least twice during any class so that no one ever leaves without feeling valued and important. They are all customers at the end of the day regardless of ability and personality. And its a great way to find out about students, whether they like to be largely left alone to just enjoy dancing (I fall into this category!) or whether they want and need lots of attention and correction.

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That is such good advice, hfbrew. My dd's usual teacher gets it just right with her; she gives praise where due and correction where due, but she never ignores a child. Very occasionally the other ballet teacher takes class and completely ignores dd, which makes her feel completely demotivated. She said she'd rather get a hundred corrections than be ignored. I know everyone is different, but I'm sure if students think that the teacher's eye has passed over them and noted their presence, it helps. :-)

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I agree with the point about never ignoring a child (or indeed anyone in your class!) I sometimes wonder how much correction they will appreciate or even want but at the end of the day they are a customer and this is a service and a product and part of what I want to offer in my class is a warmth and connection and a moment to focus on your body and awareness. It's a challenge and a responsibility!

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