I am definitely a person that learns best through positive reinforcement. For example, yesterday I made many little choices that all added up to a pretty superb day – healthy eating, time management, no procrastination, stretching, and I even made my bed! It felt really nice to come home after work to see my clean residence and feel good about my own will power that today it was easier to repeat. Just hearing, ‘job well done!’ is sometimes all I feel that I need. (All pictures by Theo R. Welling from last week’s Arts and Education Awards Ceremony)
I follow a lot of blogs in the realms of food, fashion, health, art, and design. One of my favorites is dedicated to simple pleasures and the author has started taking an adult ballet class! One thing that she said that stuck with me- as a teacher- was, ‘Don’t always teach to your best student’.
I teach a beginning modern class for kids between the ages of eight and eleven. It’s technically the second semester of this same class but I had a bunch of new students enroll starting in january, some of which have never danced at all before. These poor kids were thrown in the mix with some incredibly prodigious students that have been dancing for years, even if they’ve only done modern for a semester. They already had perfect little Horton flat backs and were even starting a basic lateral series when in come these news guys that have never seen a plie before.I have to admit that it’s terribly frustrating for me to then move my more advanced students out of my class up to the next level when I would like a full year with them, but it is in their best interest to be pushed and to learn new material rather than having to re-trace while the newbies play catch-up. It’s annoying because I was really excited over Christmas break planning lessons with my little starlets in mind. There I was, teaching to the top kids that aren’t even in my class anymore.
In facing my mostly-new crop, I am trying to find ways to challenge the more experienced ones to fight for details and to lead while I dig up the enthusiasm to basically re-do what I did last semester. I actually see huge potential in them- and I love how kids with no training come in and after a few short months, they are standing up straight and pointing their feet and moving with determination and self-awareness. I think the lesson here is that I can’t just teach to the best, I have to teach to THEIR best, whatever that level may be.Everyone deserves the respect and love to be seen for their efforts.
I think sometimes I need a good kick in the pants to find motivation, professionalism, and energy. I teach almost only children so I never think public humiliation is the way to go. I think the best teachers create a sort of aura within the classroom that makes the students love and respect their teacher and want to follow their direction and make them proud. It’s a weird mix between authority and parent figure and it gets even more muddled when teaching adults. I think if it comes to it, it’s ok to tell an adult that what they are giving isn’t good enough even if it sounds harsh. I know that I have found myself in that situation- both the giving and receiving end- and it is awful for both parties but if it’s the last straw then it’s good to be clear on your expectations. I think that I am a person that tends to either spiral up or down with a shocking momentum and I find it easier to stay on a path of clarity and focus when I take the time to notice my successes and when I feel that they are noticed by others. So if you come over, please tell me how organized I am in making my bed like a normal person. Then I’m more likely to keep doing it.
Nine times out of ten, give someone a chance to rise to the occasion and I believe that they will do their absolute best to do so. Myself included.
A big congratulations to MADCO for their performance that rendered such beautiful images and to Michael Uthoff for being honored at the awards ceremony. Thank you for giving so much to expand, educate, and entertain the dance community! Your work is very much appreciated.
Hope that everyone is finding the motivation to work hard from within, is surrounded by good support, and is getting their due reward (even if the reward is just the feeling of knowing that you’re giving the best of yourself) Consider this your internet pat-on-the-back. With love- Jess