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How qualified to teach?


drdance
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Something I just read in another thread has led me to bring up this topic again, partly because I like to discuss it, but it's also timely with the current focus on Mr Gove and his hair-brained ideas for 'driving up standards' in education...

 

This is mostly a question for parents, really, as I suspect that teachers may have different views (although it would be a good discussion!).

 

What, for you, does the term 'qualified' mean? 

 

  • Is it someone who has trained as a dancer for many years?
  • Does this person have to have had a professional (ie earning a wage) career as a performer?
  • Should they have graduated from a recognised or accredited teaching course such as those offered by the ISTD, RAD, IDTA etc, ( all of which vary greatly in their demands, at the time of examination and in CPD requirements).
  • Should they have completed a teacher training course such as a B.Ed or PGCE?

 

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These are just my thoughts although I appreciate that context of teaching is likely to be relevant. I guess there are key elements that all teachers need to know about such as safe practice, communication, structuring a class, musicality, working with specific populations, injury management to name but a few.

 

Again I think it depends on the setting. I think some form of recognised teaching qualification is a good basis but if someone is say teaching dance in a academic school as part of the school curriculum then this may be more educationally based in terms of qualification.

 

Some may elect to teach a specific syllabus which again would govern their teacher's training. No matter what training takes place it is important that this is not too academic and there is plenty of hands on experience as this is ultimately what brings it to life.

 

For vocational students my take is that whilst it is not completely necessary, it is useful to have teachers who know what it is like to perform, have a professional career. Having said that I think there is much that other teachers who have not danced professionally can offer in terms of other needs of students, improving technique etc.

 

I guess my conclusion would be that one size does not fit all and context is key. I think some form of teaching experience is useful for professionals changing career to teaching but having said that some of the professional dancers teachers courses have shrunk considerably in terms of the length of the course.

 

I guess it's about breaking it down into what components are needed for the setting where the teaching is occurring and then adding in the elusive quality that makes some more natural teachers than others.

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It's probably true good teachers may be born rather than made.....in the sense of being able to communicate your knowledge in an inspiring and memorable way....however you still have to have acquired the knowledge in the first place.....whether its Dance or Physics or French or whatever.....so some qualifications in the area of expertise should be expected I think!

 

But you can have a doctorate from Oxford in whatever..... but not necessarily be a good teacher! Communicating a passion for ones subject and being able to explain things adequately and creatively is part of some people's personality and they do better with lesser qualifications.

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In my view, a teacher of a performing art needs to have been a professional performer. I had a long stint in ballet classes (over 14 years) but never once gave a paid performance. The unpaid ones I was part of (and there were just a small few), in my opinion, did not qualify me as a professional. Neither did the illustrious careers of those who taught me what they could. There are so so many good dancers out there whose claim to teaching credentials were better than mine would have been. So many teachers seem to have risen early from their dancing careers to be known as great communicators; I've never thought a teaching course or diploma or certificate made a good teacher in and of itself. And sometimes the greatest teachers have been those who had perhaps less than stellar careers (i.e. corps de ballet vs principal) but came into their own when teaching.

Edited by victoriapage
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You definitely don't need to be a former professional to be a great teacher! I think at full time vocational schools the students should be taught by former professionals for a fair amount of the time though as they have experience of what they are training the students to do ultimately.

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I think the answer problem varies somewhat with the age of the child and what aim you have in mind. I would look for a qualification from an accredited course and membership of one of the societies. Within that I would have a hierarchy based on personal opinion of which methods I prefer. Apart from that I would look for ability to bond with and understand children, ability to maintain a good learning environment in the classroom (kind but with a good ability to maintain discipline!), a love of and passion for dance, a keen eye and ability to correct mistakes. I would also look to see whether any pupils had gone on to careers in ballet. I don't think having had a professional career is essential or even one of my more desirable prerequisites. Some people are naturally good at teaching others that is true but I think a teaching course is always going to make someone a better teacher than they would have been without it.

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I partly agree; certainly if someone is a natural teacher then hopefully a course or certificate will only help, but I don't think it's a marker of a good teacher just because someone has one. But I must respectfully disagree about a professional career, unless you're thinking of someone teaching those who are not expected to become performers. I don't really see how someone who hasn't performed in a professional way can fully convey the realities of the profession to someone who wants to practice it.

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After the first sentence I probably should have qualified that my children are only little and I'm not expecting them to have any career in dance (which the vast majority of students won't). I can see that if you had older children who were considering it as a career the answer may be slightly different although I'm not sure I would need every teacher to have that experience. If they were at that stage I would guess they would have more than one teacher from associates or vocational school etc and the performance aspect should come in somewhere but I wouldn't need every teacher to have that experience.

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The ballet is a performing art - whether one performs it or not - or is paid for performing or not, whether the career is short, long, world famous or not - it is still a performing art.  

 

It is not the technical details of the ballet which makes it an art - it is the presentation of it as a performing art.  The deeper experience of having learned how to "present" oneself on stage, how to reach out beyond oneself and reach out over the footlights and "touch" others, bringing others into the dancer's world and taking  them along for the ride - the ride of your dance.

 

Sharing one's inner world - even for those for whom it is natural to do so - is still only experienced by actually doing it.  It has to be done - experienced - given thought to - and there is, in my opinion, no substitute.

 

If one goes to a public (American meaning of the term) school and does a dance for the children - that is just as valid as a paid professional performance on a world stage. And, I would say just as important.   Because, the intent is the same - to rearch out beyond oneself and capture the attention of an audience (and an audience of children is not easy to capture!).

 

There is no other way to know the experience other than by doing it.  And there is no other way to teach one's own students the excitement of doing so - than by having felt and done it oneself. 

 

Such a teacher with that kind of experience can deepen the excitement she/he brings to the ballet classroom..  A teacher's training course cannot substitute for the experience of  being on stage, the warmth of the spotlight, preparing for the performance (it's so much more than rehearsing, putting on costume and makeup), the tremendous excitement of standing in the wings waiting to go on - and stepping onto a stage as a thousand (or 100) eyes watch.  And though one is happy for the applause - it is as nothing compared to one's own euphoria of dancing for others.

 

That has to be experienced in order to teach it.  Without the key ingredient of "presentation"  ballet becomes a litany or technical details: turnout, how to pirouette, pointe your foot, get the leg up, etc.  That doesn't mean everyone who takes class needs to perform - but it does mean that the person teaching the class needs to bring that deeper excitement into the class.

 

And, do I think this is a necessary ingredient for a teacher in teaching children?  Yes, actually I do.  The children will sense it and it becomes part of their learning experience from the first days.

 

Just one woman's opinion - I know others will disagree.

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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I agree that teachers should have performing experience. But it doesnt have to be professional. There seems to be a perception not necessarily on this forum that all a teacher has to do to get qualified is to learn a syllabus of a particular board.

 

Well in some cases this once was true but not anymore. As well as the understanding needed to be shown of the art of classical ballet , trainee teachers have to cover all aspects of anatomy, safe practises,nutrition,history, music etc.

 

And... a big part of the training is the production and performing in of productions to a professional standard even if its not "paid". Any person who has had full time training will have experienced this even if they didnt ultimately get full time contract for whatever reason.

 

And yes some people do have a natural ability to teach and others do not. But parents can be assured that those who have passed a recognised qualification will be deemed to be competent. Anybody who is in sole charge of students should have a least undergone some basic teacher training,as others have pointed out even the most naturally gifted should still have had to learn basic regulations in terms of student welfare etc.

.

Edited by hfbrew
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I think that a person teaching those who wish to make dance a profession needs to have been a professional dancer. This doesn't include a recreational dancer in my mind. I will grant that a teacher who hasn't been a professional can bring a lot to a student who needs to know about the subject and can also do a lot to bring enjoyment and appreciation of it to their students. They may even serve well in the beginning stages of a dance education. However as a parent, I would be looking for much more in the dance education of my future danseuse or danseur. A certificate or diploma might or might not be part of that.

Edited by victoriapage
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I became a professional dancer and my best teachers had not had that opportunity. But they still had had experience as descrbed above-anyone who is or has been at vocational school will not be "recreational dancers",the productions they will have been involved in being very professional- look at Ballet Central for example.

 

My ds has learnt from lovely professional dancers the most successful of whom had also undergone teacher training.

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I agree with Anjuli in that if you have done a fair amount of amateur performing you will have a good idea of theatre craft and presentation etc although not a professional and not paid for it.......not to in any way diminish professionals....we would all aspire to be that no doubt!!

 

Once you have stopped dancing though and want to pursue a teaching career that's a whole different game and the responsibility should be to get some form of teaching qualification I think.....whether via a dancing organisation like RAD or the degree in dance and PGSE route. However good a dancer you may have been you are now in charge of others children.

 

Whether the above is enough to teach pupils who want to pursue dance as a career I'm not sure. Probably for teaching in vocational schools some form of "proper" professional dance experience would be beneficial and very useful for the students there but am not so sure about this requisite for the teachers in "ordinary" ballet schools where maybe only one or two in any one year go on to take up as a career.....and are usually finishing their training elsewhere anyway. A bit of amateur performing would be good I think but not necessarily full professionally paid work.

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As for the necessity of formal teacher training - some kind of structured teacher course - that would eliminate about 85% (or more) of the ballet teachers in the United States.  And, yet, we do produce world class dancers and teachers.

 

In the course of my lifetime of ballet classes, I had one Cecchetti teacher (she was also an examiner) - she was excellent at teaching precision of placement of arms, body, head, feet, etc.  The syllabus offered a systematic approach to aid in learning those elements.  But the syllabus was a failure at teaching the student to quickly pickup and assimulate new dance sequences.  And, yes, I know about 'free work" - but that can't substitute for every class being "free work" - every day being a new day.

 

San Diego has always been rich in excellent ballet teachers.  I know that seems unlikely  - but it is true.  From Theodore Koslov and Alexandra Baldina who retired in this area  after their  world famous careers as part of the original group of Diagelev Ballet Russe dancers  (Baldina was the original "waltz girl" in Fokine's Les Sylphide) to Belcher, Ellicott, Kaliskis, and on through the years to Jillana, Hepner, Yourth, Arova, Sutowski,  - the list continues to this day.  Thus we have no lack of comparison - teacher to teacher, method to method.

 

 

Two RAD teachers set up studios here and at that point I had been dancing and teaching for many years and was very much interested in attending their classes - eager to taste this famed syllabus.  I have to say - and I realize this was a sample of only two RAD teahers out of hundreds across the world,  in all my years of ballet class, those two teachers were the worst I'd ever come across.  Each had her wall papered with diplomas and other official accredations - but it certainly didn't help what went on in their studios.  Each studio closed up shop after only a very few years. 

 

So, how is it that without  official course work and/or teacher certification does the United States manage to produce world class professional ballet dancers? 

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Were these teachers (not the RAD ones) teaching very young children or much older children say 14plus?

 

If they were teaching older children who was teaching the younger ones?

 

Or did their schools go from 4 to 18 so to speak?

 

 

Perhaps the RAD courses have improved a lot in recent years I don't know but I agree anyway just having a Certificate in anything does not prove you will teach well necessarily.

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What a very interesting topic!

 

From a personal point of view, what I look for in teachers for my dd has depended on her age, and has changed since her need to dance became evident. Initially, when she was 3 and asked for ballet lessons, I asked for recommendations from fellow parents as I had no clue about Syllabi. Dd started at a local dance school which did ISTD.

 

For various reasons we moved school when she was 7 and at that stage she knew she wanted to learn Character so we looked for a nearby RAD teacher. It didn't matter to me whether the teacher was an ex-professional; I was looking for a great teacher who liked dd and vice versa, who would let the children progress at their own rate, and not hold the whole class back. Dd is still with that teacher now and she does concentrate on technique as opposed to performance, but the advantage of having a supportive teacher who has taken the time to get to know my dd physically and emotionally over the years is just invaluable. She encouraged dd to try for associates.

 

Both dd's Associate teachers are ex-professional ballet dancers and the combination of a very technical local teacher with ex-professionals at Associates is fantastic.

 

I do think though that a teaching course and/or qualification is very important, because ex-professional or not, not everyone can effectively break down ballet into communicable steps, and teach those steps to another person. A great dancer might not naturally be a great teacher and some people need to be taught how to teach - if that makes sense!

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Some ex pros are amazing teachers and some are not; some people who trained exclusively to be teachers may not be as good as people trained primarily to be dancers; some RAD teachers are excellent and some are not.  As Anjuli said there are many teachers without formal qualifications, but it doesn't make them less of a teacher.  And having those qualifications does not necessarily give them the qualities to be a great teacher.  There are teachers who turn their students into world class dancers, but give mainly negative feedback and play havoc with their students' self esteem.  There are teachers who do the opposite - tell their students that they are the greatest - until they go to another school and discover that their technique is actually weak and incorrect.  In other words, as in all walks of life, there is no hard and fast rule to what makes a person good at what they do . 

 

I personally believe that a teacher should be the product of excellent training themselves, with performing experience and with formal qualifications.  However, beyond this a teacher needs to be dedicated, caring and passionate about what they do.  And I don't think that it matters if a child wants to make a career of dance or not, he or she is still entitled to top quality teaching.  If something is worth doing it is worth doing well. 

 

Someone mentioned above that  professional experience or qualifications might not matter so much at the "ordinary" schools where perhaps only one or two children might turn pro.  If the teachers at these schools weren't any good, they wouldn't manage to turn out even a handful of dancers and even if there are only one or two children in a class of 16 who show real talent, those kids deserve the best training their school can give them. 

Edited by Dance*is*life
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I just wanted to add that the best teacher my sons ever had at regular school was a man who was so highly qualified that he could have been a lecturer in university - I think he had a PhD from Oxford.  He believed though that his talents would be put to better use in the school classroom making reluctant children love history than teaching in university so that's what he did.  All three of my sons studied with him in turn and all got excellent marks with him as their teacher.  However, my middle son truly shows the case in point.  He only had him for 2 terms and his grade went up by about 20 marks during those 2 terms, because this dedicated, wonderful man got him interested in the subject and fired him into working hard.  When he left his class, his marks dropped again.

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Because of the fact that the majority of teachers in the UK ARE qualified I think many of those (but not all by any means) that aren't qualified just haven't bothered and that doesn't give a good impression of them.

 

Because having teaching qualifications isn't generally the done thing in the US then people don't expect it and therefore teachers don't feel the need rather than just haven't bothered!

 

Am I making sense?!!

 

However, despite that, teachers should be continually learning and improving their teaching methods and attending courses can only help with that, including in the US. Whether they lead to a teaching qualification or not isn't really relevant there but personally if a teacher had had a professional career in dance AND a teaching qualification it would impress me more than just having had a career (initial impressions only of course, many other factors come into play too).

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Dance is Life I was referring to it may not be so important to have had professionally paid dance experience for teachers in localballet schools. Ive always said proper teaching qualifications are important wherever and whatever you are teaching.

 

Yes inspirational teachers can move children on a lot both with and without a degree from Oxford/cambridge Ive experienced both.

 

In two consecutive years at school(and only in these two years) and it was a small school...I received the school prize for most achievement in Biology......inspirational teacher with only a Teachers Certificate

and then for French...........inspirational teacher with honours degree from Oxford.

 

The Maths teacher at this school was an extremely interesting and lovely lady who we loved to get off topic in lessons but was more or less hopeless at teaching Maths unless you were already good at it!

She was one of the first women to ever be awarded an honours engineering degree from Cambridge University!

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I am always inspired myself by the films that show how teachers have turned their students around and made something of a class that other teachers have washed their hands of.  I know they're often corny, but they seem to be based mostly on true stories, so I think if they can do it so can I !!!   I am sure we all know stories of kids who have gone on to great things because of a certain teacher. As LinMM said some may be highly qualified, others less so, but they have the knack to inspire, to bring a subject alive, to infuse in a pupil some of their own enthusiasm for a subject.  Motivation, whether intrinsic or external, can work wonders........

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