Forum: Teaching Assistants

A guide to being a great assistant! (karma: 4)
By leap2livemember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Tue Oct 24, 2006 04:40 PM
Made sticky by imadanseur (79325) on 2006-10-26 07:54:05

Being an assistant can be very scary, especially when the teacher gives you the chance to be in charge of the class. Here is a small guide to keeping complete control over the kids, and impressing the teacher and parents at the same time.

1. Talk to the teacher.
No matter how experienced in teaching, assisting or even dancing you are, you need to talk to the teacher. Ask her if she would like you to stick to the same games and teaching techniques she uses, or if you have free rein in that department.
You can also ask her to write down the usual pattern of the class just for later reference.

2. Pay attention to routine.
Kids usually don't do well with change. Watch the regular run of the class, and try to stick to it. Referring to #1, if the teacher says it's OK, you can incorporate your own games and teaching into the class, but still try not to get too off-course.
For example, if the usual class starts off with "The butterfly game" then plies, tondues, and releves in center, you can give them a different game at the beginning, and maybe a slightly different combination of the exercises in center. It still follows the same order of work, but adds your own teaching style.

3. Take notes.
It may sound a bit over the top, but it really helps to take notes. Not only can it help you to remember the pattern of a class, all the student's names, and teaching tricks, but also, you can use it later on in your teaching career to look back on. For instance, if you just start teaching a class by yourself, you can look in your notes to see how the teacher went about correcting turned in tondues, or flexed feet.

4. Be creative.
The worst thing you can do (especially for younger kids) is to be boring. Use creativity! This doesn't mean you can't be unprofessional, it just means you can loosen up a bit. Fun games, songs, or even warm-up stories can make a class much more enjoyable for you and the kids. It also shows the teacher and parents that you are relaxed.

Here are a few games to play:
Freeze dance: Everybody knows how freeze dance works. Turn on the music, let the kids dance around however they please, and they freeze when the music pauses. If they don't freeze, they sit down until the next round. You can change it up a bit by giving them categories. Such as "Dance like a bear" or "A spinning/Jumping step." It helps the kids have an idea of how to dance, while still letting them be creative themselves.
Dancing Numbers: This is a really fun and funny game. Use the numbers 1-8 (incorporate this into teaching how to count beats). Give each child a number, and choose very slow music. When their number is counted, have them make the shape of it, using their bodies. Give each student a chance for each number.
Meadow Dancers: This game requires some props, so it's better for a small class. Each dancer gets a small basket. While dancing around, they must pick up small, fake flowers which have been scattered around the room. But, while picking them up, they must use a dance step. So, to bend down to pick the flower up, they must plie, or reverance. It's quite fun, and cute.

5. Be fun.
Always (with the teachers permission) finish the class with something fun. Maybe bring suckers, stickers, or small candies. Even just giving high fives at the end will bring the class to a good end.

6. Be friendly.
Parents love it when you talk to them and their kids AFTER class. It really makes them get to know you and helps them to feel comfortable having you assist their child's class. And you don't just have to talk to them about dance, either!

Have fun assisting!

20 Replies to A guide to being a great assistant!

re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By tapgirl1
On Wed Oct 25, 2006 06:41 AM
Great post!!
I also want to add to remember that you are a role model in & out of the dance room. If you see one of the students in a store, at the park, or anywhere besides the studio, always act professionally!

Remember to still do your best in your own dance classes. Even though you are assisting, you are still a student too. We all (teachers included) should continue learning, so don't get so hung up on being a "teacher" that you stop being a "student".

I have been lucky to have had 4 different assistants that have gone on to extraordinary teachers. I learn from them just as much as they have learned from me and now we all make one heck of a team!
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By elisalovesyoumember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Wed Oct 25, 2006 10:17 PM
this is good advice (i requested it to be a sticky)
except at my studio it wouldnt really work like this.
i dont get to chose what we do, the teacher does and she tells me
but maybe thats different at different studios...
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By leapjumpturn
On Thu Oct 26, 2006 09:05 AM
Great post!
I love all the of the ideas for assistants. I am a teacher and I do choose all of the activities for the day. However, my assistants are fabulous because they are so proactive when it comes to rounding up students, tying a loose shoe, keeping individuals on the correct step or figuring out who needs to use the potty! That to me has been the most important contribution they make to my class. It's up to me to keep the class moving along but I can't get to every little one and keep everyone focused at the same time. If you want to be a truly invaluable assistant, try anticipating the needs of your students and be there for each of their needs. My huge classes run like clockwork thanks to them.
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By PointeBound13
On Sun Oct 29, 2006 10:17 PM
This post is great! I just started assisting this year and I love it!. The other day one of the teachers told my other teacher that I was the best assistant shes had. That made me feel so special. The first day was so akward being a ms instead of just my name and I didn't know any of the kids names but It statred to become more and more comftorable and now i'm totally relaxed being in the assisting position and I just love it now. Just remember when you're and assistant, at least one of those little girls is looking up to you and wants to be just like yo someday. set a good example,your touching lives forever.
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By liliwee
On Wed Oct 17, 2007 09:55 PM
thanks!! I assistant teach ballet for pre primaries and it was quite scary to stat... then one time i was asked to teach the class on my own while my teacher watched me!! it was sooo nervracking!
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By Dylademember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Tue Feb 26, 2008 06:50 AM

Thank you very much! Your guide is really usefull.
I used to be a ballet teacher in the past, and I stayed 9 years away from ballet. Now I´m a Physical Education teacher, working on fitness, and I restart ballet classes 2 years ago. Yesterday I was accepted as a teacher assistant in my studio. I´m so happy to work on dance again, and your post made me really happy.
Thanks for the tips!
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By tinkrbelle84
On Wed Apr 09, 2008 09:53 AM
we should hand this out at our studio. i know it's hard to be a teachers assistant, but we do need them there - i have a preschool class this year without one, and let me tell you, it's a challenge. with our assistants, it is so much easier to keep the kids on task and paying close attention to what they should and shouldn't be doing.
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By DX_Dancer
On Fri Aug 08, 2008 08:42 PM
Thanks so much for this list!!! I am having my assist meeting next month and I'll be sharing this with the girls.
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By i_luv_2_dance1
On Mon Oct 06, 2008 09:52 PM
Thank you sooo much! This has really helped me as I am a 13 year old starting assistant teaching. I sometimes find it hard getting things across to the students, and sometimes i am a bit quiet. :)
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By tappergurl
On Sun Jan 25, 2009 07:28 PM
Wow, this is a great post, I wish I had this advice when I started assisting when I was 16. I think one other important thing for assistant to remember while in class is to set a really good example. Tie your hair up, wear the proper clothes and shoes, don't run off to get a drink every few minutes (or at all), don't sit down (except if it's part of the game) and of course participate (demonstrate where you're supposed to, play the games, be a second pair of eyes for the teacher). Generally the assistants in our studio are very young (they have to be at least in grade 7 for a preschool class) and we remind them that the little ones they stand up in front of each week want to be just like them! If the assistant is acting inappropriately you'll start to see a string of 5 and 6 year olds acting just like them! Kids are tough enough to deal with, assistants need to make sure they are making your class easier, not harder!!
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By luvs2dancealot
On Tue Aug 11, 2009 08:02 PM
Can I add something?

-don't text during class, even when changing your shoes
-watch what you say around the kids and the parents of the kids you assist. The younger dancers look up to you and aspire to be you, so just be careful what you say.
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By movedance
On Tue Aug 11, 2009 08:06 PM
Good post...I think it's really important to talk to the teacher about his or her expectations of you; every teacher is different.
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By dancerdani3Premium member
On Fri Aug 20, 2010 09:46 AM
Great Post! I think being a great assistant is also being a great role model for those little children you are teaching. Doing well in your own classes and having a positive attitude is wonderful.
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By gdncewrks
On Sun Aug 22, 2010 07:21 PM
Never sit in class... its very unprofessional. Don't be afraid to give the teacher ideas and help inspire them.
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By yepduckie
On Sun Aug 22, 2010 11:33 PM
Make a point of learning all the students' names. This may be obvious, but they will respond and listen better if they know you know who they are.
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By dancer_aimyXomember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Sat Jun 15, 2013 04:54 PM
Really great post :) very useful indeed. Thank you :)
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By DanceDean
On Thu Jun 20, 2013 07:38 AM
It is not YOUR class, it is MY class and you are assisting ME.

While I appreciate the initiative, I have a plan for the class and please follow my lead - don't take it upon yourself to decide what comes next.
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By DanceDean
On Thu Jun 20, 2013 07:43 AM
Don't be drunk with power.

I had an assistant this year in my 3-4 year old class who would constantly be on the kids. They are 3-4 year old and they are not going to act like 10 year olds, you can't expect them to.

It felt that she wanted them to know SHE was in charge. I spoke with her and she continued and had to speak with her again after parents complained.

I sure hope the SO doesn't use her as an assistant again. She was terrible!
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By DanceDean
On Thu Jun 20, 2013 07:48 AM
Edited by DanceDean (236510) on 2013-06-20 07:51:04 spelling
I have another one!

Of course, this was the same bad assistant as above... in the same pre-school class... don't ever tell a little girl or her parents that their little girl is your favorite.

While it may make that particular little girl or her parents happy, in reality, it alienates the rest of the class.
re: A guide to being a great assistant!
By Inspire771Premium member
On Tue May 19, 2015 10:11 AM
Dress the Part!!! Don't come in a loose t shirt to class-- look like the professional you want to be treated like-- I have sent many of my slackers right back out the door.
and perform every move like you are auditioning--- its the only way the younger kids will bring it


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