Little ballerinas standing eagerly in front of their teacher.
Little ballerinas standing eagerly in front of their teacher.

I have recently started teaching again and the single thing I love most of all is to see a smile on my students’ faces. To know you have the ability to improve a child’s physical coordination and mental determination level are wonderful things. So how can you become that teacher who inspires and motivates their students?

There are five easy steps to follow. No qualifications necessary. It is all about attitude and approach.

“I love you as my teacher,” a student says to me. At the end of the class, the whole grade gives me a gigantic cuddle and says thank you. I have only had these students for one hour. But for children, one hour is all it takes for them to feel inspired by you. 

Honesty from students can only push you to keep inspiring them to be the best they can be.

1. Be positive – without being fluffy

There is a fine line between being a positive teacher and a nice teacher. A positive teacher will create an atmosphere where students will love to learn and play. A nice teacher might try to become friends with the students. This should not be acceptable when it comes to professional teaching as the pedagogical status must be kept for students to completely trust and respect you.

The way to be positive is to always remind them of how they are progressing. Are they needing more attention to achieve a movement? Give it to them. Make time for each student in the class to ensure they are achieving personal goals. If it is a cartwheel they are struggling with, spend that little extra time to make sure all the ground work is correct. Once they have nailed that, they need the courage to venture upside down on their own. It is imperative at this point to encourage them, by saying they can do it, and even clapping when they finally succeed. If they see your smile and enthusiasm, that to them is a green light to achieve anything.

If you are providing constructive criticism to a student, endeavour to say it in a tone that is positive rather than negative. For example, if you are doing corner work and focusing on leaps and one student performs it with bent legs, there are two ways to approach correction. If you choose to say, “Don’t buckle the back leg in your jete,” that is less effective than “try stretching both legs out as straight as you can.” Just re-wording your feedback can empower students instead of bringing them down. Tip: never say, ‘don’t’. Use words ‘try,’ and ‘can’.

2. Be genuine – do not say feedback without meaning it

It is so important to keep an honest relationship with your students. Children can spot a lie better than a lie detector. If a student lacks discipline, they must be told how to act appropriately.

Particularly with a student who is a slow-learner or has a disability, if you are not genuine in your teaching approach then it will not be effective. By genuine, I mean to be honestly engaged in excelling a student’s technical progress.

It is very simple to be genuine – you either are or you are not. If you feel uncomfortable in this situation, perhaps teaching is not the path for you.

3. Cater direction to all students – not some

All students are paying equal fees. There can be no favourites in the class room. I was never the favourite in my level during my dancing years, and it felt awful to be neglected and unnoticed, no matter how big I smiled or how hard I danced. It seemed nothing was ever enough.

So I have a rule in my teaching approach to always look at each student’s progression with earnest interest.

Students will learn things in different ways. One student may learn from your first explanation, but for others it may take two or three different ways to explain it. I aim to explain something in multiple ways to ensure the students comprehend the concept. 

There are verbal ways to teach, which means to explain the concept by speaking to the children. There are visual ways to teach, by showing them. And then you have the practical learners, who learn by doing. Try cover all aspects when teaching and the students will not only understand, but they may do better in their work because they get it on multiple levels.

4. Hard work must be rewarded

With all the hard work the students put in, a reward should be acknowledged. A reward can be as simple as an hi-5. To say, “Good job,” and “great work” are just some sayings that go a long way in the classroom. But again, compliments must be genuine!

5. Keep the energy of the class high and fast-paced

This is something that can be in or out of your control. A great class can be impacted by social and technical issues. If you are feeling great and you have eaten healthy that day, then it is more than likely your students will catch your infectious, happy mood. But if it is a slow day and the endorphins are not kicking in, students will notice this too. It is not about faking it by slapping on a smile. It is about keeping the class upbeat and on pace. When a class is lifted by energy and momentum, it is quite difficult to lack positivity. The students will not fall into the void of a slow class either and can enjoy the intensity of the atmosphere.

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