Appropriate presentation of yourself is crucial to your success as a dance teacher. Your students want someone that they respect, trust and also like. So how do you go about walking this tightrope between respect and friendship?
The following tips have come from years of teaching and recognizing what works and what does not. Hopefully this information will advance you as a teacher and keep your students fulfilled and challenged.
This is often overlooked as advice because it is considered obvious. But it needs to be restated. Always arrive before your students with a concise lesson plan. There can be no excuses. Your students are paying you for your knowledge and time and the least you can do is show this the respect it deserves by arriving early and prepared.
This involves more than simply having the lesson plan in hand. It involves having a backup lesson plan as well. You need to take into consideration a group's absorption of information. What you thought would take an hour could only take 30 minutes. If this is the case you need to move on fluidly to the next subject without hesitation. You will also have to make sure that this subject relates to the class. Think about your lesson plans carefully. When you are studying a style, consider what additional movements and steps compliment the dance, the time they will take to learn and the level of ability needed to grasp the concept.
One final note on punctuality; you may think that extending the duration of your class will demonstrate your enthusiasm for teaching, but in fact it will demonstrate the exact opposite. Going over your allotted time will only serve to make you look unprofessional. Most of your students will have places to be after your lesson is finished. Going over time will make them late for their meetings and make you look unorganized.
How you project your voice in a class is vitally important. You should animate your voice and speak loudly without shouting. Animating your voice will keep your students interested in what you are saying and articulation will make sure that they can understand you.
If you are teaching a class of over 40 people it is always a good idea to try and use a wireless microphone headset, so that you do not have to shout and you can preserve your voice.
Speaking of voice preservation, always warm up your voice before the class. Many teachers like to repeat a descending yawn as a vocal warm-up; you may have your own technique. For enunciation, many teachers like to over-articulate the alphabet to get into their "classroom voice". Whatever technique you use is fine as long as you grasp the concept that your vocal technique needs to be more exaggerated in the classroom.
Choosing your words carefully
It is important that you keep verbal information to a minimum. Your students are there to learn how to dance and would much rather spend time practicing doing just that than hearing you speak. Students also need time to process information, so keep advice concise and succinct.
You need to articulately convey the passion of a dance as well as the technical information. Be precise when describing the techniques but avoid unnecessary description. Most dance encourages a degree of individuality and if you overly complicate a description, your students will feel trapped within the movements.
When a question is raised in the class, be sure to repeat this question before you answer it. Most students will not enunciate as well as you and the whole class may not have heard the question that is being answered. When answering a question, always use positive terms and avoid negative ones. This leads us neatly on to our next tip.
Modesty is a common problem for new teachers. Many think that this will give them a positive appearance among their students. But experience has taught us that this can be just as harmful to a reputation as boasting. Your students want to know that you are knowledgeable and experienced. Let them know that you are and that your class is worthwhile for them. This of course does not mean that you should parade your trophies and certificates.
When another dance instructor is brought up in class, be sure to speak positively of them. If you have snide, unkind words to say, this will make you look unprofessional. If you do disagree with another teachers methods, by all means say so, but be sure to back this up with information on why and how their methods could be improved. But again, be sure to do so in a positive manner.
Always remember that your first concern is your student's progression. Try not to be overly concerned with your own reputation. If you nurture and bond with your students in a kind and professional manner, your reputation will naturally grow and word will spread of your teaching abilities.