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Have you read our previous article?
The Guide is addressed to any teacher regardless of their background. You want to become a dance teacher, you started teaching recently or you might be an experienced tutor, if the passion is gone this article is definitely for you too.
This is a simple guideline to get started and it's also a good reminder of important values for those who have been teaching for many years...
I dedicate this article to you who taught me so much. Everything you gave me is a precious gift that I deeply respect, cherish, and share every single day.
Always by my side...
To my mentors,
Read once today and read again in the future if it is needed.
# 1 ARE YOU READY?
I'm gonna start with this one. One of the biggest matters in the dance teaching world.
I believe that some people start teaching too young or for bad reasons (a bit more on the latter in #2).
Many dance teachers receive professional dance training for a few years and then start teaching straight after graduation.
If you are healthy and in your 20's I urge you to please focus on performing first as you can still make it happen! We will be waiting for you, dance, travel, enjoy and come back to us when you've done that! Trust me, the more you will learn as a performer the better teacher you will become.
If you are someone with a very strong passion for teaching and this is what your dream is and always has been, well... the same applies to you! Especially if you want to teach aspiring professional dancers, however, this is also important for amateurs or children. Ask yourself if you would be able to teach the real purpose of dance? Remember that dance is an art form meant to be shared with an audience...
If you jump into teaching without having had a dance career yourself beforehand, how would you be able to teach that? If you can't perform full time at the moment, maybe join a company on a part-time basis, find an institution able to provide you some stage experience, or be a freelancer.
Not everyone can have a dance career I agree but at least did you try? Please if you are at this stage and you are reading this article, reconsider that.
Did you really try everything you can to have a career?
Unfortunately, many dance teachers start their teaching career after "giving up", if your real dream is to be a performer, please stop right there, and before continuing read our previous article:
# 2 START WITH WHY
It might seem obvious but it's not. Did your circumstances force you to become a teacher? Are you teaching only for money? Or perhaps you genuinely love it which is great!
In order to become a great teacher, you must know why you are teaching and most of all you must want it very hard. Teaching is not easy and is quite demanding both physically and mentally.
Teaching only for money is never a good start, if you hate what you are doing simply because you are doing it "between jobs" it won't work. You might teach aspiring professional dancers or amateurs, whatever. They can feel it. Teaching is fun but it is also a big responsibility. Be sincere.
Knowing why you do it will shape your entire career and will give a purpose to your life.
# 3 A STRUCTURED AND POWERFUL CLASS
To find the perfect job for you, you must first polish your class.
Your class must be unique and structured: warm up, stretching, set exercises, technique, diagonals, jumps, and finish with a combination. ALWAYS. I took many classes in my career and not every teacher finishes with a combination which is a real shame. It's quite disappointing.
You might be a bit overwhelmed at the beginning because managing your time is not always easy but you will get better at this. A class usually runs for 1h30min, sometimes less and sometimes more if you are teaching a workshop.
The most important point is to make your students DANCE! Many teachers get stuck on technique, some teachers even teach combinations only if the students "deserve" it. Please don't do that. Whatever the level of your students, beginners or professionals, finish your class with a nice combination.
It is also the best way for you to showcase your choreographic skills and it is a great opportunity for your students to apply everything they've learned during your class.
You want the dancers to leave your class happy and motivated. Make sure to finish your class with DANCE!
# 4 HOW TO FIND A JOB
There are many ways to find a job.
You can go for the traditional way and lookup up the job adverts but there is also a better method: Spontaneous applications!
It is way more efficient and I guarantee you that it works. The good thing about it is that you make yourself known, it is great for networking and it's therefore very effective in the long term. I found most of my dance jobs this way, create your future position!
Present yourself the best you can. Here is how to prepare the best job application:
Your Application must include:
- Cover letter (Explain briefly who you are and what you have to offer)
- Join a CV (Make it spectacular and modern)
- Join a biography (Very important in the Performing Arts Industry)
- Some dance photos (Not too much, you are a teacher so not more than 2)
- Showreel of your class if possible (Not compulsory but it can help)
Now find all the dance schools in your town then send your application via email to all of them, it's like the lottery, you want the best results, therefore, you must play big. Make sure to send to relevant dance schools of course and wait.
I taught internationally for the past 12 years and this method worked well for me! Always. One day I sent over 300 CVs in 52 countries to offer my services for Horton and Graham workshops, I didn't get 300 answers, probably 60.
I created nice networking, made myself known in places I have never been, received a few serious job offers for workshops, taught a few trial classes, and guess what? I found a great job in the end!
Another great way to promote yourself is to have your own website! This is such a powerful tool... I love the great and cheap service offered by Fiverr! The freelancers available on the platform are so talented and fast, you can definitely rely on them to create the best website for you and even your CV! Mine was created by a freelancer and it's exactly what I needed.
Do not hesitate to use professionals. They know better plus they save you lots of time and energy!
The good thing about promoting your dance services via your own website is that you can run Google ads! This is so helpful! You will need a web hosting company for that, it is way cheaper than we think though, Bluehost can take care of it and will provide you with your own domain name.
Be proactive, do not just wait for job adverts, go out there and let people know about you!
# 5 TEACH ONLY WHAT YOU KNOW
Logical right? No, it is not. In 17 years I've seen many things... Not always right, unfortunately. If you are not confident, do not teach yet.
When I started my dance journey I wanted to be a teacher. I always knew, however, when I was a student just after a few months I realized something that changed my vision about teaching forever:
How on earth would I teach something I didn't understand myself?
And for this reason, I postponed teaching for long years. I wasn't ready, it was way too early. Not everyone understands that.
If you are truly interested in teaching a particular technique, know it well first, you must be able to share your experience with confidence and also you must respect your students, make sure that they learn the right things. Learn your craft well, keep learning, and update yourself regularly. No one knows everything... It is down to you and the teacher you want to be. It took me several years to learn and know the Horton and Graham techniques and I'm still working on it every single day.
It takes time and patience. Respect yourself and the dancers attending your class. Stay professional and teach what you know.
# 6 START ON THE RIGHT FOOT
New year, new students! You have never met them before and the first impression is important indeed:
DEFINE THE RULES OF YOUR CLASS.
If you want to teach in vocational schools this is very important and it must be done on your first day to make sure everyone sings from the same song sheet.
Do you know your rules? If not I'm glad I mentioned it, find them! Pause and think about it now... Be reasonable of course, are you expecting them to treat you with respect at all times? Tell them. You would love your students to work hard? Tell them. Are you expecting a certain uniform? Tell them. Anything you need to achieve the desired outcomes must be said on your first day.
This is your class, it is your rules. It is very important for you and your student's well-being. Your students will know where you stand and they will just deal with it. Therefore they know what to expect which is helpful. Define clear rules for their own good!
Also, the good thing about verbalizing your rules is that you will educate them about self-discipline which is key for a successful career in the performing arts industry. Put that in their mind, they might not realize it now but trust me they will thank you for that in a few years.
BONUS: You told them about what you are expecting from them, don't forget to tell them about what they will get in return. It is not about "I give you that if you do that" not at all. It is more about you all living under the same rules, they must know what you will do for them, they must hear how motivated and dedicated you are. You are serving them, they must know it. Too often teachers feel like they are entitled to certain things, no, it is not working like that.
If you want something to happen make sure to let them know about it. It is teamwork. We are all in the same boat and everyone wants the same thing: Success.
# 7 SMILE
I'm quite demanding as a teacher and I believe in discipline indeed. However, I'm not as tough as I imagined, why?
I've seen many dance teachers in my career, teaching an entire class without a single smile on their face, not one! It is not about faking it but just being open-minded, you are not a wall. Some teachers believe that being very strict will create respect for their students, and although that can be partially true, it does not mean being cold and unapproachable.
Show your students how happy you are, you can laugh with them... Create a positive atmosphere where they feel welcomed.
You will actually benefit a lot from that. Give it a try!
# 8 FIND THE RIGHT BALANCE
Here is beautiful feedback to explain my point, I couldn't have explained it better:
"[Dance teacher] is at all times 100% professional and has excellent attention to detail and an impeccable work ethic, strongly leading the team whilst maintaining an atmosphere of camaraderie."
Perfectly explained! You can't be too strict or too friendly, you must find the right balance.
This is why setting up rules at the beginning of the year is vital. When this is done you have the freedom to explore and create a real nurturing relationship with your students. They know you are their teacher and they will never cross the line because they know there is one! Now you can release the pressure and this is how being happy and smiling in your class is important and helpful. Be tough and relax sometimes. You will achieve better results in this way.
Make sure to remind them of the contract (your rules) when needed, make sure they improve and progress regularly, and sometimes reward them by being a bit more cool and creative! Absolutely!
Let them express themselves! Give them the opportunity to "speak" in your class. Improvisation, workshops, or choreography! Learn about your students. You are delivering the material but sometimes stop and watch how they use it.
Give them the opportunity to grow as artists, to step away from the technique to dance! It is not all about technique, this point must be reminded regularly throughout the year.
Challenge them, surprise them, guide them.
# 9 JOIN THE FUN!
Dance with them!
Show them how it is done, not for showing off, not at all, but to inspire them! Share your energy with your students and they will return that to you.
The dancers who attended my classes in the past 12 years love this part! I always dance with them at a certain point. It is easy to ask for things and to sit on your chair for 1h30. Don't sit too long, be active, don't lose that passion.
I didn't say to take your own class as you are the teacher and you must keep an eye on them at all times but dance!
Give! You will always receive. Make your class fun and vibrant!
# 10 FROM THE STUDIO TO THE THEATRE
Everything we learn in the studio has a clear purpose.
Everything the students learn in your class, whether it is dancing, technique, or self-discipline, everything is to be applied on stage. I always remind them about that and it's quite engaging, they like it because it's motivating!
They are not just learning technique, they are performers and a performer must be able to share his/her art.
# 11 BE FLEXIBLE
You can't be the same teacher when teaching to professionals or amateurs.
Be demanding with aspiring professionals and be more flexible with amateurs. Make sure everyone learns in your class. Remind them why they are taking this class in the first place.
You might teach open classes so it is important for you to be likable too if you want dancers to come back...
Adapt your class and your requirements to your audience, always.
# 12 BE RELIABLE
This is a hard one especially if you are still a performer.
This is why you must be ready before teaching full time. People are counting on you, they trust you to share your knowledge during a certain time, be reliable.
Your students trust you, they are learning from you, and believe it, you are valuable. We cannot replace great teachers that easily so when you have started something finish it. You can still manage both careers successfully, it's completely fine, everything can work out quite nicely with communication.
I made this mistake once and today when I think about it I know I could have done it differently and get the exact same result. I was fed up and I quit a bit too fast in my opinion. I would have quit anyway but it could have been smoother...
Indeed don't force yourself to do something you don't want to, it is not worth it, however, you can help by being reasonable. You will never feel trapped as long as you maintain clear communication.
# 13 USE YOUR VOICE, BE DYNAMIC!
What I mean by that is that it makes a huge impact on your class!
In no time you will find your own teaching style, everyone is unique which is nice. The dancing will make your class interesting of course but also the way you deliver your work. It is not a show, it is a class and dancers are coming to learn.
Nevertheless, I've always seen my class as an interactive performance, and experience, I take people into my world for a moment and it does make a difference.
The tone of your voice, the energy you send can make your students achieve so much more, they feel pushed and stimulated. Thus they give you so much more! It is not for you, it is for them and only them. Everything you do in your class is for your students, it is for the dancers.
Remember that: if you are bored in your class, everybody is.
# 14 YOU CAN'T HELP THEM ALL
Unfortunately, you can't be loved by everyone and sometimes it might not work.
Not everyone is taking the train. You can be misunderstood occasionally, don't take it personally. Don't give up on them and give them more time.
Give your maximum and remember that everyone learns at their own pace...
# 15 IT IS ALWAYS YOUR FIRST CLASS
This is the last piece of advice I will give you and perhaps the most important. For instance, applying this rule in your life after securing a job will always be beneficial to your career.
Think about it every day, teach like it's your first day. This mentality will transform you and you will do better every single day. You will go further, you will do more and more to improve and to achieve the results you have in your mind because YOU STILL CARE.
You are evolving, you will not be the same teacher in 5 years' time. But if you keep teaching this way you will stay curious and interested. Give your best, give more, for yourself and to your students.
Be generous, give and you will always be rewarded, one way or another.
Paperwork, paperwork, and paperwork!
Quite an important aspect of the dance teacher's life. It is not impossible, you can deal easily with that. There is one way: ACTION. Get started as early as you can, if you have lots of classes, for example, create a folder for your entire year, with every important document. When you have that ready, create a file for each class you have.
Print out all the most important schemes of work and put them in your folder. This will make your life easier as you will have everything at hand. It could also be on a laptop if it's more convenient.
As soon as you have an important document to deliver, just do it as soon as possible, don't pay attention to the deadline, be very proactive, and as early as you can about it. That way you will never feel overwhelmed by the paperwork. Stay always ahead.
I taught in many dance schools the past 12 years and paperwork is part of the deal. Get used to it and don't think too much about it. DO IT!
I hope you found this list of my 15 most important tips for a successful teaching career helpful.
I WISH YOU A BEAUTIFUL AND FULFILLING TEACHING CAREER!
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