As a instructor one of my many, many jobs within my classes is to inspire. To, ignite a flame inside the student who having not taken my class may have simply found another hobby to pick up and not continue on to inspire others. I’ve been thinking about this role on and off for the last year. As I start to revamp my classes, create new ones, and get pumped for the new season I notice that classes bore me. Even some of my own.
I’ve watched lots of classes and looked back on my own to notice two major things. 1) Nothing. Has. Passion. 2) There is no innovation. I mean, this is something I’ve witnessed on ALL levels. From local to international level instruction. I wish I was just being pretentious, thinking I was above classes, I’m not. You aren’t either, so sit down. No, It’s different than that.
There is the first problem. No passion. If you are a teacher reading, when was the last time you really looked at your beginner 101 lesson? Is it the same lesson plan your teacher taught you? Are you engaged? Have things changed since you were a baby teacher? To be fair, Beginner 101 is basic. We all teach it and teach it often, it’s not hard to get people moving. The real question is not only is your class fresh, but are you?
Some easy questions to ask yourself even just about beginner 101 class:
- Has my music been updated in the last 3-4 months, if not more often
- Has my lesson been updated in the last 3-4 months
- Have I taken a beginner 101 lesson in the last 6 months to a year
- Do I have one exercise I am genuinely excited about sharing
- Have I noticed any bad habits I always pass onto students and addressed them
- Have I brushed up on my jokes and icebreakers
- Is my class challenging enough
- Do I have cultural context to share that isn’t intimidating
- Have I dance with a new person this month
- Have I danced with a peer this month
Before any lesson planning I ask myself these types of questions.If I not excited and passionate about dance how will they be? That is just the list for beginner 101 classes. All of these prompts are meant not only to keep you accountable as an instructor but to excite and push you. A few instructors of all levels have mentioned lately, they don’t update their music because they don’t feel comfortable. Perhaps It’s different for you, but I always get a spark from finding music I want to dance to, or music I want to share with my students, and fawn over in front of them. It gets me excited for class, and thinking about upper level classes. Even if you don’t want to search down obscure songs for class, you may find listening to a blues radio station, someone else’s list, or a blues mix on youtube inspiring.
A different set of questions for any classes above the basic level INCLUDING the ones above.
- Have I practiced this concept in the last 2-3 months (ideally more recently)
- Can I explain it to a non dancer
- Is this a topic I feel passionate about? If not, have i found something about it to be
- Have I explored unique ways of explaining this
- Can I teach this with focus on different learning styles
- Do I know if the event wants the class leveled to the room or to the description
- Do My students have something challenging for them to leave with
- Can these concepts be used in social dancing, if not,
- Do I know what could change to fix that
- Am I well read on this topic
The answer to all of these prompts should be yes. Ironically although the focus is on the students, it’s actually about you. Are YOU ready for class? Are you passionate and hype? Have you got new tricks up your sleeve even for a class you teach all the time? Then there is the second issue.
Honestly, if the passion issue gets fixed, so will the innovation most likely. Black culture innovates . It builds upon its foundation until it’s huge and becomes something else and takes root in it’s own foundation. Black dances, like the culture should innovate. This, does not mean you can do whatever you want. It means you must stay connected with it’s foundational ideas, values and truths. If you don’t know those, from the dance AND culture it will be hard to innovate.
In the rush for everyone to try to learn and be able to teach idioms we have forgotten to try to play, to innovate and be humble when corrected. I want us to keep our own personal styles even as we learn these styles and to not be afraid to try new ideas, push boundaries and be interesting! To move and teach clarity, to be unafraid to break idea, to fail and try again and really push ourselves. We are bottle necking the passion by avoiding taking risks instead of making mistakes and learning from them.
You don’t get off easy either. Teachers feed off of you energy and excitement during class. Without it, it feels like pulling teeth. Have you felt in a bit of a rut lately? Have you seen the youths passing you by? Wondering why you haven’t made it into XYZ thing you wanted?
Here are some questions:
- Have I taken a beginner class in the last 3-4 months
- Have I taken *A* class in the last 3-4 months
- Do I practice at home
- Do I solo dance
- Have I listened to Blues outside of dance
- Do I leave my ego at the door before attending class
- Do I fully engage with the class material, questions, and ideas
- Have I provided constructive feedback to partners in class and accept theirs
- Do I Lead/follow to the best of my abilities no matter my partner/or exercise in class
- If no to any of the above do I take private lessons
The easiest way to become passionate again is to get back into a student’s mindset. If the people teaching have poured passion into their classes you should a) get something out of every class and b) at least show up. That in turn inspires teacher and it all builds towards community passion, excitement and investment.
*for the record no matter your dance style these can be applied