With every new season comes new students who aren’t sure how they feel about dance. They are usually first time students who are nervous about trying something new, especially between the ages of 3 – 7. As a dance teacher, these students push me to be the absolute best teacher I can be. That way if they don’t end up continuing with dance, I know that dance just wan’t their thing!
Last season my challenge was a cute little three year old. She tip toed into the classroom, not because I had taught her to, because she was shy. One of the magical things about teaching three year olds is that in most cases they immediately look at me with a love filled gaze. To them, I am a real life ballerina! This particular student wasn’t buying it. She looked at me with doubt in her eyes. She gave me a “who are you?” look. The “I don’t have to do what you say because you are a complete stranger” look. At the end of the first class I told my assistant that I was determined to have this three year old fall in love with dance.
Weeks went by and I got the same look. While other students were starting to share with me and talk to me, she still looked at me like I was crazy. I pulled out all of my teaching tricks and personalities trying to get this little one to like me. Things were getting personal! (Just kidding, but seriously.) At the start of December I was beginning to feel like maybe she just didn’t enjoy dancing. Maybe she would be happier playing soccer in the spring!
Then the miracle of the holiday season kicked in. Literally THE class before holiday break this student galloped into the classroom with a smile. She shared during share time, she held my hand during our circle warm up. Most importantly, she looked like she was having a blast during every little combination and exercise! It warmed my heart to see that she had been in love with what she was doing the whole time, she was just afraid to share it. Ever since that moment, she has come to class with a smile.
Another new student this year joined my class without having ever danced before. This student is naturally talented, very coordinated, and when she has her mind set on something she gets it every time. The problem is since this is her first year dancing, she isn’t very confident. At the beginning of the year she came to most classes looking a little grumpy. Most of the time I redirect students to something exciting so they will forget they are nervous, so I started doing that with her when she began in the fall.
With each class I tried to find a way to get her to feel more confident when working on new skills or combinations. Some days I would even have her demonstrate or start by casually saying “you’re going to be really good at this!” before explaining the exercise. I wasn’t lying, I knew she WOULD be good at it. It’s taken a while, but this student’s attitude about dance has completely transformed throughout this season. She comes to class excited, her gorgeous smile is contagious, and last week she even….wait for it… GAVE ME A HUG! This may not seem like an accomplishment, but it was.
Some students take time to develop their sense of safety, confidence, and love for dance in the classroom. When it all comes together and a student falls in love with dance (no matter what age they are) it makes everything we do as teachers worth it. We will continue trying everything we can to connect with students and make dance accessible to them. Each one of our students are unique and beautiful and it is amazing to watch them as they fall in love with dance throughout the season.