Forum: Irish / Irish - Champs

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For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice. (karma: 48)
By seanmharcailinmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sat Jul 23, 2005 01:18 AM
Made sticky by Theresa (28613) on 2005-07-23 21:10:06

Hi everyone. I thought this might be useful, or at least interesting. I started assisting in classes when i was about 14. I had to stop because i was so frustrated with my students, and I just wasn't a good teacher because of it. I did my senior project for highschool on teaching, and then i started filling in, assisting, and teaching regularly for classes, teams, and workshops. I get a little arrogant and stubborn sometimes, sure that I am "right," but teaching gives you a different perspective. It can be really hard, but it is also so much fun. From teaching a boy his first skips to seeing that girl *finally* get that hornpipe out of novice, or going over a set for the hundredth time before the 3rd round begins at Nationals, it takes a lot of energy and patience. These are 10 things I've learned in the last 5 years that may or may not help you.

1) Don't be as mean as your teacher- OR as nice! It can lead to resentment in the first case, and disrespect in the second. Favortism goes here too- always say at least 1 good thing and a constructive thing to every dancer.

2) Wear your dance shoes! It is important for your students to know you can dance. You don't have to dance with them, but if you are showing them how to point properly it is easier to see it in the ghillies than in your runners.

3) Don't try to correct everything at once. Sure- it is a beginner class and things will look terrible, but start with the basics- can they do their skips? good. Are their arms down? fix it. are their feet crossed? fix it. Other things can be too difficult for new dancers to understand and you may get a lot of teary-eyed students if you start going on about back-leg tucks and extension in your jump-2-3s. Champ dancers can do more. They can "multi-task" and they should.

4) Some parents will try to get stuff from you- "Show her again" or "Are we doing this right?" or "Is it OK if..." kinds of things are really common in new parents and the best answer involves your teacher. I often tell parents "Don't worry, your dancer knows what she/he needs to do for practise- we went over it all in class" or "I don't think there will be a problem, but e-mail _______ before you go ahead." I made a few too many mistakes on those types of things in my first 2 years of helping.

5) Run class how your TC runs classes. Have your own teaching style, but make sure that you cover everything your TC would like to cover. Consistency is important.

6) When teaching new steps, BE PATIENT! It is easy to make a dancer cry, and practically impossible to get them to stop. Take things ridiculously slow. Give each dancer a chance to ask questions, go over the step one at a time, then do it super slow again- just like your teacher would show you a new step.

7) Remember the level of the dancers you are teaching. If you are teaching competiting beginners, they will need to learn how to dance without your help. New dancers need extra help. If you teach Championship dancers (as I do occasionally) drill the dances and let them ask you for help. Don't "correct" too many things because you never know when your Teacher has said "do this" if a step is different.

8) if you ever feel uncomfortable teaching a class, form groups. Focus on one group at a time, and have the others sit. I use this method when teaching a beginner class with 20 girls and 8 boys. If you feel you can't handle the level or you don't know what to do, ask your TC to sit in on the class and "team-teach" till you get the hang of it.

9) Don't be afraid to joke around/be silly. You're a young dancer too, and it is important for these dancers to trust you. Sometimes making a joke about superglue and macaroni when fixing carriage problems is more effective than just screaming "POSTURE!"

10) Be a role model. I started dancing when I was 5 and I am now almost 20. There are a few dancers who have just profoundly influenced my life. Their passion and dedication and self-dicipline are inpirations.

Remember, every dancer in that class is worth your time. The best feeling in the world for me is when I walk into a feis and five 6-year old girls run up to me and attach to my legs in a big, scary, little girl hug. Some win, some don't, but you love them all and they'll love you too :)

Anybody else here teach? I'd love to know your tricks and advice as well.

64 Replies to For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.

re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice. (karma: 5)
By Cluichmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sat Jul 23, 2005 03:21 AM
This is a really useful post and I'm sure others will benefit.

I don't teach Irish, but I do teach Highland so here are my tips:

1. When teaching new dancers, go slow! However, you should get an idea of their individual abilities pretty quickly, and whereas slower dancers need time too, if one dancer is really very slow, try to get someone to teach her after class. Don't let this one dancer hold up the others, it can be very demotivating if the others get bored class after class after class.

2. Don't teach the kids every step there is of a certain dance, just teach them what they need to know. Variation is important. Later you can go back and teach them the harder bits, or complete the dance or whatever (more useful to Highland I guess than Irish, but it's all about variation).

3. Dance moms can be annoying at times (sorry dance moms!!), but parents who don't give a damn can be 100x more irritating to deal with. Be sure to give them as little reason to complain (= get their kid out of dance class) and give show dates, feis dates, expenses to be expected as early on as possible.

4. Don't be too proud to admit you've done something wrong (dance-wise, organisation-wise or other). Make sure your TC backs you up.

5. Try to get different levels to teach, even if it's just about assisting in the Open Champs groups. The kids need variation, but so do you! There's only so many times you can teach 123s until you start to long for more. Plus, it can be satisfying to see a group get the hang of that ceili immediately after you've just gone through a class that needed an hour to cope with just the lead and body of that exact same ceili ...

6. If your school doesn't have them: organise Christmas parties, pre-O parties, first-feis parties and so on. Get that group-feeling going! Your TC may not feel like organising all that and feel relieved you're doing it.

7. Seanmharcailin said it too: makes jokes when necessary. Be a clown if that gets the kids' attention back. Of course it's important to be serious and dedicated, but a little light-hearted fun never hurts. Then again, be prepared to be very strict if needed down to the point of being mean. Some kids need that, but only do that one-on-one, never in front of the whole class.

Think that's it for now. Enjoy it, it's great fun and good preparation for your TCRG exam!
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By celticfeetmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sat Jul 23, 2005 05:26 AM
I don't teach or help, but would love to someday; thanks for posting this! Good job!
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice. (karma: 5)
By DCBorn
On Sat Jul 23, 2005 05:39 AM
Another bit of advice, coming from a mom. When working with upper level dancers-try to consider different personality issues that might affect how "criticism" is interpreted. Recently in class, when TCRG was not around and senior dancers ran the class-there was a lot of critical remarks made towards my daughter-which then left her feeling like the worst dancer at the school. The interesting thing is the senior dancers were finding flaws that the TCRG never has mentioned. The senior dancers are great girls-we love them. But after months of many sessions where lots of positives were given-getting nothing but negatives was quite defeating for my daughter. I told her to wait and see how the TCRG responds at class next week. But my point is-try to limit how many faults you point out in a given class session--many younger dancers(like mine)start to feel like a complete failure when 5 or 6 problems are pointed out in a 2 hour class period.
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By Gaelic_Gal
On Sat Jul 23, 2005 01:10 PM
Karma. This is a great post.

I teach/assist at my school and something that I always do is try to bring it to there level. I always say, " this is the way that I practiced this to get it right." They have to know thatyou where once a beginner/novice- whatever- too, and that they can get it too. I think it really helps the
dancer-coach relationship.

With private lessons are a little differant. Try not to give
More than one or two main things to work on. It can be too overwhelming for the dancer.

re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By irish3509member has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sat Jul 23, 2005 01:21 PM
awesome post. as an adult returning to dance and more than likely going for my TCRG that was awesome! karma for you.

and as a dancer that was taught by jean and cara bulter and donny golden i can atest to how nice they were while giving me "tips" to do my dances better. donny tended to work me hard, he could see my potential, that i never really looked at or saw until i was away from dance while i was at college.

best of luck to all those teachers out there.
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By carlyirishdancer
On Sat Jul 23, 2005 01:40 PM
What a great post. I just taught classes last week with a friend helping me because our teacher couldn't be there. You give great advice. I'll make sure to remember it.
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By dancing_spazmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sat Jul 23, 2005 02:45 PM
someone make this a sticky!
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By EireLibramember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sat Jul 23, 2005 03:51 PM
Thanks so much for the great post!

My experiences have taught me that even though I learn things fast now, I often forget how slowly I learned when I was a beginner... so if you think that you're teaching it too slow, that they're going to get bored and quit your class... don't worry, it's probably just right!
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By AinetheDragonPremium member
On Sun Jul 24, 2005 01:56 AM
All great suggestions...
Some to add:
Something that they have the instructors in my Tae kwon do studio do is have a specific goal/theme for the class. Maybe focus on crossing for a day, or turnout, or posture, or lift, or stage presence.... you get the idea, pick one, so that students can focus on practicing one thing. Maybe incorporate more then one for more advanced dancers (crossing and turnout, or posture and stage presence).

I usually start class with a speech about how I'm probably not going to do things just like the teacher, but I hope everyone will just go along with me and I hope I can teach them something new. Usually I sub in a class that I dont take, so I dont know how the teacher has been doing that particular level, especially when it comes to the daily warm-up routine, and/or drills.

I like to spend alot of time on the basics, because no matter what level someone is, what choreography they do, or what they've been working on, spending a day on the basics wont hurt.
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By seanmharcailinmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sun Jul 24, 2005 02:08 AM
yeah- aine- Basics are always a good idea. Occasionally I just can't find anything more to do and then I just go back to simple drills. Basics are never a bad thing to work on. In fact, my Championship class just had a 3 hour session where we did nothing but turnout/crossing focus because we were getting so lazy about it (ok, not lazy- we were just taking for granted that we all DID it!). Then in our Choreography class we spent about 30 minutes on the proper way to do sevens- lol!

and thanks for all the karma guys! You're so sweet :)

ooo- another thing I just thought about, dress appropriately! sure, it seems like a no-brainer, but one day i forgot my change of clothes and it is SO hard to teach class in boots and a pencil skirt. *oops*
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By aussiemum
On Sun Jul 24, 2005 04:30 AM
A tip from a mum of a dancer - always watch how you speak to the dancers regardless of age or level. Being rude / nasty to dancers will make them afraid of you, resent you, even come to hate you. You might be a perfectionist but remember no-one else will probably measure up to your standards - their best may never be perfect to you. Keep the yelling to a minimum and no name calling or belittling the dancers. This is our assistant who is related to TC.... mums won't say a thing because of the relationship.
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By seanmharcailinmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sun Jul 24, 2005 10:49 PM
I'm so sorry aussiemum that you have a rude assistant. That's terrible. That's exactly what I mean by being a role-model. You have to watch your language and your sensitivity and your expectations. That is great advice, but I'm so sorry you feel you have to put up with poor behavior just because the assistant is related to your TC. I've known my TC for almost all my life and I feel like she's my aunt, but she'll still be very frank with me. Maybe you should try to mention something to your TC, I don't think it could do any harm. It is better than having a dancer come home from what should be a positive, self-image improving dance class crying out of self-pity and fear!
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By ghilliegirlymember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Tue Jul 26, 2005 04:22 AM

now i am excited about teaching tonight.
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice. (karma: 1)
By contessadance
On Fri Jul 29, 2005 10:13 AM
Great advice, now I wish it could be forwarded to all TCRGs & studio (not just ID) owners. You're very wise. I made some very similar comments to a studio owner when I helped her do marketing (i.e. the "creative movement teacher wearing footies & non-dance attire conflicts with your uniform requirement for children, not to mention promoting your other business--a dance attire store!).

Assistants: the most important thing for younger dancers, beginning or not, may be to remember that they may "worship" you and aspire to be all that you have ALREADY achieved --they don't care if you placed, or didn't in the last feis or if your turn out is perfect. When they see you at a restaurant or store, please, please, please say "hi" and acknowledge them, and soak up all of that unconditional love :)

Also, the TCRG may only be interested in those who take firsts, etc. Our U9 beg dd has placed in all but 1 of 8 feis & when I asked her one night what her ID dream was, she said, "I hope that Ms. TCRG will some day say something nice to me." Our 15 yr. old assistant, on the other hand, will console her when she makes a mistake, high-five her when she does well, admire her medals when she places and wants to show them off.

You have the opportunity to rock the world by being a role model to the littlest ones--even the ones who tug at your new dress and say "wow, you look really pretty"--many of these kids may be "tagalongs" who have yet to start dancing and an encouraging word from you could be the beginning of a future champion in the making!

And yes, I constantly tell our assistant how much I appreciate her, how she is a dream role model for our dds, and I gladly think nothing of going to 5 stores to find her the perfect pair of earrings as a TY gift, & am e-shopping for more surprises!
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice. (karma: 2)
By califeisgirl
On Fri Jul 29, 2005 06:36 PM
I am one of the teachers a my studio and I really love it. I'm not a coddler, but the kids know that. I'm hard on the ones who have express interest in moving up to other levels. If they make a mistake I don't scream or yell or belittle. Instead I simply shrug and say "try it again." When they put in effort or finally get results, they know I'm always praise them. This week we did dance camp. My theme for the kids was "keep thinking" (often a hard thing to get little kids to do). Some of the mini victories included: The beginners learning the whole duke reel, a little boy for which everything clicked in his head, a little girl who has been working on back clicks for months now and won the "most back clicks landed competition", a young, often bratty kid finally realizes that if she works hard and does what she's told she gets praise and the list goes on. I had a wonderful time. I have learned many things teaching. Here are some more.

Be prepared to explain things in many ways. No one learns the same way and one kid may learn better being talked through things while another learns better with you dancing it next to them. Also, be ready to say the same step many ways I've used "jump 23, Jump step step and jump in front, behind." You have to be on your toes and thinking

Learn personalities. I talked about the bratty girl I worked with. She is used to crying to get what she wants and was mad because i wanted her to fix something and was having her dance her slip jig untill it was fixed. She fake cried for about 5 minutes staring at me through her fingers. I just waited it out. Her brother on the other hand, has been working very hard and has become a great listener. After struggling to get clicks (all the other girls had figured them out) he asked to go to the bathroom and later I found him crying in the lobby. Immeditly I was sitting next to him, softly asking him what was wrong. Once I figured it out,we just simply worked on something else. Two kids, but different personalities so they have to be treated differently.

Make an attempt to watch the kids at feiseanna. They love it. If they come over and ask you how they are doing, be honest but not harsh ie "Your arms are looking good but lets try to turn your feet out some more for those last two dances." If they are doing a great job, seek them out when they step off stage for a bit and tell them so. I always say "you should be really proud of how you danced." That way I'm not getting their hopes up for any certain place, but they can hold their head up high no matter what because "Erin said it looked good."
In the same thinking, if the dancers stop by to watch your competition, acknowledge them at some point. Thank them, sometimes I even flash them a smile while I'm waiting on stage or in line. It means a lot to them to know you're happy they are there.

Don't be afraid to bring "treats" to class. This doesn't always have to be candy or presents. Sometimes I bring in a different c.d. to strech to or the kids get to do treble reels at the end of class or I make up a new game for them to play. Sometimes even I'll just do something I know the kids like to do that we don't do often.

Admit your mistakes and make it very clear you were wrong. Kids hate being told they are wrong when they are right. I make a bigger deal about me being wrong then I do about the kids being wrong. Being wrong sometimes is ok, as long as we keep going and fix it later.

Learn names. This seems obvious but you'd be surprised how many asst teachers don't bother. I'm awful at names so I tell all my new students the same thing "I'll probably forget your name, please please please correct me. "

Make dance class a parentfree zone. All our dancers know that is doesn't matter what "mom" said you should do or work on. A lot of kids appriciate not having to worry about what their parents want for an hour a week.

There's lots more, but that's the stuff I haven't read yet, think is important, and have put into words.
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By SionnachPremium member
On Fri Jul 29, 2005 06:48 PM
I've just started teaching, this is REALLY helpful.

I'm glad that I have these tips before I make to many people frustrated with me parents and students alike!

Thanks again!
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By seanmharcailinmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Fri Jul 29, 2005 09:12 PM
Regarding the fesing praise thin Erin above mentioned: I don't always tell my kids they did good. Sometimes they did terrible. i always ask them how they did first. Example:

Suzy just did an OK hornpipe, not as good as in class the week before. Everybody is saying "oh- that was nice. Good hornpipe, well done, etc." I go up to Suzy and say "How did you do?" She says "It felt ok, but everybody else says it was nice, so I don't know." I reply with "You're right- it was OK, but I know you can do better. Keep focused, chin up! We'll fix the mistakes next week, now just do your best on your next dance."

Of course, it depends on the students. Some dancers just need positive reinforcement, some need realistic advice, others need to be kicked in the butt. Luckily most of the dancers I teach prefer a realistic approach- so no sugar coating, no sour grapes, just honesty, which I think is really valuable.

If a dancer tells me they did bad, and they really did do poorly, then I agree with them and give them a couple suggestions to help them refocus. Kids can have a hard time getting their heads around the task at hand, so it is important not to overload them. Teaching St. Patrick's day to some beginners was looking good until one girl decided she just didn't know it! She had an absolute breakdown, even though she had just done the step properly about 6 times in a row. The just needed to sit and cry before going on. Another dancer, though, had a similar breakdown of brainpower in the hornpipe, but instead of letting her sit, I made her walk through it SUPER SLOWLY telling ME the steps. Guess what- she did it!

point- every dancer is different, every teacher is different, but we all need patience and compassion.

ps- i am sick due to teaching a bunch of little kids for hte last 14 days, all day, every day. A few of them came to class sick, and now i'm in bed. sad day. be prepared for colds!
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By califeisgirl
On Fri Jul 29, 2005 09:55 PM
LOL, oh I only praise them when they do really well. If a kid does bad, isn't focusing on stage, isn't trying I let them know quite sharply. I too, don't mince words. But a lot of my kids have a lot of pressure put on them by their parents to move up, at a feis they are a bit fragile. If I do give them corrections at a feis, I try to do it when their parents aren't around. Usually the kids are trying, you can see them thinking while they dance and I think that should be awarded. It totally matters on the kids.
Where the "you should be proud thing" comes from is we all know there all those days when you can dance your heart out, try to do everything you were taught and still not see your name on the list when it comes time for results. It is those kids I tell should be proud about how they danced. I tell them before they go to the results room so they don't learn to connect pride with how they danced to how they placed. It's a rare comment for kids to get. Usaully its a "good, but work on this this and this" or if they are doing really bad I give them a simple "you need to focus better."
Most of my kids will tell me point blank "I messed up such and such" if they know the messed up, to which the response is always "we'll fix it for next time." If they dance and don't realize they aren't doing things right, I'll tell them right away.
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By seanmharcailinmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Fri Jul 29, 2005 11:28 PM
Oh- there is one girl i feel SO bad for. She isn't a great dancer due to injuries and foot problems, but she is working SO HARD. Everytime she is at a feis, she'll dance then her mom will say, right as she comes off stage "Oh well. You'll do better next time? all super sympathetic. The poor girl is near to tears whenever she sees her mom after dancing, because while the mum thinks she is being supportive and not getting her daughter's hopes up, she is really just bring her down and ruining her confidence. I teach her occasionally, and I always have to literrly PUSH her mother out of the room so we can just work on dancing. Parents really can be such a pain because the just don't understand. Obviously, not their fault, but really... after a few years of being involved, they should learn something!
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By emily_
On Sun Jul 31, 2005 06:29 PM
great great post. thanks to everyone else for adding their own bits too. as a dancer who has been taught by senior dancers, and now teaching myself, it is important to have a set of rules to go by to ensure the happiness and progress of everyone involved! thanks for your input!
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By rincedragonflymember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sun Jul 31, 2005 11:12 PM
Everything posted here is GREAT! I have something to add: I ALWAYS use analogies and metaphors when correcting or teaching, even with the bigger kids! Like with my little ones, "stick people arms" help keep arms straight. "Belly-button to your backbone" helps keep the tummy tucked. If you give them a picture to see in their head, then it is easier for them to understand the concept. "straight arms" and "tummy in" doesn't always make sense to kiddos. This can also be used with older/advanced dancers with concepts such as hitting the floor hard with trebles ("pretend it's your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend's face!"). It only works so far to say "hit the floor on your trebles".
Good luck to all the assistants and future teachers out there!
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By sugar_clover93
On Fri Aug 05, 2005 09:09 PM
I teach beginner dancers and at our school most of them are very young like 5-7 young. If you are teaching a little one remember that they may not be able to stand there and listen to just the step and so make sure that you have their full attention and get them to feel comfrotable around you. If they arent then they wont ask questions or if they need help on the step. I am not actually a senior dancer but i am adding to this post anyway.

-Megan :D
re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By everdancingmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:44 PM
Karma! That was a great post... I teach classes on my own (but under my TC) too, and all your suggestions are excellent- I know they'll be really useful to many people on here, especially to brand new teachers/assistants.

As a side note on the topic of teaching.... does anyone have any tips for teaching absolute beginners at hard shoe to do trebles/rallies? I always find that this is the hardest thing to teach them.. the concept just seems to take FOREVER for kids to grasp! Suggestions to make it easier, anyone?

re: For those senior dancers who assist teaching, here is my advice.
By seanmharcailinmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sat Aug 06, 2005 03:11 AM
oh hardshoe is SO hard to teach. I have the dance stand crossed, then I just do one treble over and over with them super super slow. Bend leg up tto bum in back, then beat OUT (and lift and point) and IN (this time lift it kinda to the knee.) then back to starting position. Overaccentuating the leg movement gets the concept of *2* beats through better than doing proper trebles. When you start with treble step treble step do the same thing and LIFT that foot really high off the ground after the second beat.

that is what i've had best luck with, but 5 year olds still have issues with it. hey- 10 year olds have issues (ok... i have some issues too :) ) sorry i couldn't be more help!
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