Dance Teachers: 5 Tips to Improve Communication with Your Students

By on January 27, 2017

 

Ever demonstrate a routine and then wonder why students have issues catching on? What’s the first thing you think when so many eyes look back at you with blank stares? The most common thing to do is internalize it. “Darn it, it’s me-it’s gotta be me. Something’s off with my teaching style. My fault, I just know it’s my fault!”

Would you consider that more often than not, it’s something going on within your student and not you? All you can do is communicate. If you make a point of communicating in a clear and understandable manner, then you’ve done your part in sending your message. It’s then up to your students to hear what you’ve said, internalize it and figure out how to give you back your suggestion. It’s in this process that things tend to get a little stuck from time to time. Is it your fault? No. There’s nothing wrong with things getting a little jumbled from time to time. That’s what the teaching process is all about. You can’t have teaching without learning. As you probably have come to realize, each student processes information differently. Each one of us absorbs and processes information in different ways.

Some students seem amazing. They hear you say something, watch you demonstrate it once, and then, before you can even finish what it is you are showing them, they mirror what you just modeled-to the letter. It’s almost as if they didn’t need even a moment to begin digesting what you modeled. They heard you, and now they are giving you back what you gave to them. Not all students learn in this way, though. Some need time to work out how they will show you that they’ve absorbed what you’ve taught them.

But what happens when nothing seems to move a class in a positive and productive direction? Consider examining the motivation. If students aren’t feeling motivated, they aren’t going to care about learning. That’s all well and good, but how do you motivate students to benefit from what you have to offer, and empower them and get them excited about learning?

Here are five motivational teaching tips you might want to keep in mind as you move forward in your career:

  1. Feel
    Many teachers can communicate effectively, but there’s a difference between communicating and motivating. While it’s true that you can’t motivate unless you communicate, how you motivate can make a big difference. Think about injecting feeling into everything that you teach. Are you excited about what you are teaching? Do you stand behind it 100 percent, and just know that students will benefit if they follow your lead? Do your body language and voice mirror how you feel inside as you teach?

If you are really into what you teach, your students will feel it. Your enthusiasm will spread like wildfire. Enthusiasm, motivation and excitement are all energies that we send when we connect with our heart and fully believe what we are communicating. When was the last time you were truly excited about what you were teaching?

  1. Always Acknowledge
    Whether a routine is easy or difficult, always acknowledge and reward your students for jobs well done-and even for attempts that too often fall short of the mark. Sometimes praising those who make an honest effort has little to do with the outcome. Acknowledging a student’s honest effort can often mean more to that person than can praise to those who find it easy to achieve. Either way, the important thing to remember is that positive feedback goes a long way in motivating students to take the next step. It’s pretty rewarding for them to walk out of your class feeling as if they really accomplished something, especially if they walked in feeling like they couldn’t do it. They’ll keep coming back for more.
  1. Have Fun
    Any level of perceived difficulty can be diminished if you approach it with fun in mind. Fun and humor can all but dissolve fear. You can get people to do something they once considered next to impossible-if they can approach the task with fun and lightheartedness. Suddenly, they understand how little there is to lose. Trying just might mean succeeding. Life is so much more worth living with healthy doses of fun along the way. It perks up energy, determination and spirit when there’s a happy energy in the air.

You are the conductor of that orchestra, so to speak. If you lead with fun, others will follow in tandem. If you model a smile, others will pick it up and not even realize that they are mirroring the very same energy you show. Ever heard of the expression, “Time flies when you’re having fun?” There’s truth behind that cliché!

  1. Get Involved
    How much do you really care about what you do? Is your heart really in it? What’s your level of commitment to the students you teach? How present are you when you teach classes? These go a long way in motivating students. What and how you really feel about things is a barometer for the outcome of the tasks you undertake. If you really aren’t into what you are doing, the outcome will reflect it. It’s the difference between a passing grade and an A+. Even if you put on a brave face and try to act like you care when you really don’t, your students will register your true feelings on a certain level. It might not always be conscious, but you can be sure that they will pick up on it in some way, shape or form.

Being involved in teaching means being totally present. Involvement forces you to be there in the best way possible, and your students will feel lifted by your sense of commitment and care. Time flies when you are having fun, but it goes just as fast when you are totally present and involved with the task at hand.

Teaching should be your passion, or at least one of them. Passion connects directly with your heart. Heartfelt energy is infectious and can be a reason students tend to flock to those teachers who teach with their hearts. Teaching with your heart has everything to do with being involved. If you weren’t involved with what you do, your heart wouldn’t be such an important part of the mix.

  1. Negativity Breeds Negativity
    Got any negative kids in your classes? What do you do about those guys, and is there any way to get them to come around? First, see what happens when you apply these four tips. See how they work in motivating students of a negative nature. Watch for any kind of responses that might signal a shift to a more positive way of being. Small changes in a better direction are what are important here. Subtle shifts move mountains when it comes to transforming negative thinking. It might be worth it to chat with a student who seems more negative than the rest. Ask what, if anything, you can do to make this a better experience for that student. Show you care. One must delicately dance around situations like this. Often, kids are dealing with extreme negative situations that exist elsewhere in their lives. They could be modeling this behavior by what they see and hear their parents doing. It could be something that’s going on at school. Sometimes you don’t even need to know. What you should focus on is making your class the absolute best part of your students’ days with you. Asking what will help better the experience can show you are there. If students feel safe with you and know you are one of the few who really care, they might feel comfortable showing you a side of them they never reveal to anyone else.

Conversely, it’s also important to remember that you have things called boundaries. I believe there are two types of negative students. Those who might not even realize how negative they are due to the situations that seem to exist around them, and those who use negativity as a means of control to get what they want. Cater to the first group, and don’t give an inch to the second!

Remember, though, that all you can do is the best that you can do-nothing more, but certainly nothing less. Negative students can be somewhat extreme in that their energy and attitudes end up disrupting the positive progress of the class. They can bring things down in a split second. If you’ve tried everything to shift a student’s negative outlook but nothing seems to help, have a chat with your studio owner. See if he or she has any suggestions and try those. Keep a small written record of your efforts, including the day and dates that you tried them. This way, you demonstrate-through a backup and history-that you cared enough to remedy the situation.

About Angela D'Valda Sirico

Originally from England, Angela received her early training from one of Margot Fonteyn’s childhood teachers, Carol Bateman. She later attended the Arts Educational Trust and was invited to perform with the Festival Ballet in London, but decided instead to continue her studies in the US. Angela began an extremely varied professional career performing around the world, and later met her husband Steve Sirico while filming a TV special. After years of performing together around the world, their focus shifted to teaching. Angela is a published author, as well as Co-Founder of Dance Teacher Web. www.danceteacherweb.com

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