Teacher and students, the best way to create happy and talented dancers: Encourage or discourage?
The dance teacher plays a very important role in a dancer’s life, but sometimes they underestimate the influence they have on their students’ emotional and psychological development. They have to be able to teach the correct curriculum and steps, but they should also support, constantly, their students. They may consider their teacher an example to follow, almost like a superhero.
Usually dancers, besides some exceptions, (most frequently for male dancers) start to take dance class when they are in elementary school, then they become committed in their adolescent years, and then start their professional dance studies. Some of the students start at even a younger age, 3 or 4 years old, so just start getting ready and used to the dance world.
The teacher has to be so intuitive and be able to understand and have awareness of the young dancers’ emotional development, because it is fundamental in order to build a healthy relationship with the students. All teachers should be enthusiastic and show all the passion they have, so that the student becomes more passionate.
When they are pretty young, students tend to mimic the adult world, so teachers can play a lot with the imitations. The teacher has to be able to make classes fun and simple, remembering that the students are in class to enjoy themselves, improve skills and make new friends.
When they are in their pre-adolescence age, the teacher should start to introduce them to the world of performance. At this age, dancers need to begin processing how certain actions contribute to specific outcomes. During this phase, the teacher’s job is to be a role model for how he/she wants students to present themselves, how to communicate, respond to stress and learn how to deal with conflict and problems.
During the early adolescence age, teenagers are able to keep attention, they have better impulse control and thought processing. They can easily struggle, because they try to forge an identity while they also want to be part of a group. During this phase, the teacher should help them and prepare them to consider their commitment to dancing as they look to the future. At this age, children may be devoting most of their time and energy to dance. Sometimes they quit because the fun turns into pressure. The teacher should be able to guide them to find strategies for dealing with performance anxiety and frustration. Very important is also communicating with students.
When they become adolescents, dancers can easily struggle to balance academics and social interactions. There might be also some physical change that can influence performance. They express, more frequently, doubt about their capabilities and question their commitment to dance. The teacher needs to encourage dancers to think about their performance and practice in a factual way. They should be able to listen to their inner voice and discourage irrational thinking. Help them to find a balance in life and dance.
Teachers and students play different roles, but they have the same goal: the student’s needs. Both of them focus on the student’s learning, not only considering the curriculum that the teacher introduces to them, but also adapting the teaching to the student’s learning style, personality, focus, discipline, etc. However, it is also important to consider that students might have few teachers to relate with, while the teacher has multiple classes, so many different students, each of whom he/she owes the same commitment to.
Every teacher is important and has to be respected and listened to, independently of the technique they teach, and every student should be equally encouraged and sustained during their formation. Teachers should always be open and honest with their students. Inform them when they are doing a great job and when they need to improve, not just criticize and judge.
So students should be stimulated, encouraged, followed and loved in order to reach the goals set at the beginning of the year.
But it is also important to set professional boundaries starting at a young age, when they can learn as soon as possible the way to talk with teachers and how to professionally relate to them.
Being a teacher is a huge responsibility that needs to be pursued daily with attention and integrity. It means not only to teach and show steps, but, not less important, being also a health and professional guide for each student.
Bianca Delli Priscoli