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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sit Down!

I am not good at sitting down.
     When I teach a ballet class, I get physical. I like to demonstrate steps full-out whenever possible. I walk around the room during combinations to offer individual corrections and hands-on assistance, if necessary. I'm the teacher who has a really hard time not doing the choreography with students as they practice. I'm more comfortable conveying ideas through movement than speech and, well, I just like to dance. 
     Yesterday, I got hit hard with a gross, icky stomach bug. One minute, I was feeling fine, prepping my afternoon classes and starting on costume orders for our spring performance. The next minute . . . well, I'll spare you the details, but it wasn't pretty.
    It was too late to call in a sub and or cancel, so I knew I'd have to figure out a way to make it through at least my two beginner ballet classes. I resigned myself to sitting in the front of the room, letting my assistant demonstrate as I called out steps and corrections.
     Despite feeling miserable, I actually found I enjoyed the new perspective sitting down offered. When I was sitting still--not pre-occupied with flitting around the room correcting everyone--I found myself noticing different strengths and weaknesses in my students I hadn't noticed before. I saw them moving more musically and organically. I better appreciated the progress they've made since the beginning of the year.
     Sitting down also forced me to use my words to offer corrections more than my hands. While I still think manually correcting alignment and placement is helpful for some students, I discovered that some of my dancers seemed to understand better when I spell things out verbally. Having to translate my correction into their bodies seemed to help them "get it" in a way I hadn't seen before.
     I don't think I'll ever let go of my energetic, bouncing-around-the-room teaching style, but from now on I plan to be more intentional about finding moments in class to be still, observe and appreciate my students.

    Fellow teachers, have you ever tried (or been forced to) sit down while teaching a dance class? Did you find it difficult?

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