Teaching To Children: When To Be Soft and When To Be Tough
Teaching to children – a huge responsibility
Being a teacher is not an easy job, especially when you have in front of you very young students. Not only you have the possibility to educate and grow a new generation of dancers, but if you’re teaching to children you also have in your hands their future in dancing.
The way you give them information, the way you prepare them to be competitors and how you teach them to face victory or defeat will influence them. Will they love or hate dancesport?
Every child is unique
Unfortunately (or not), there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, especially when teaching to children. There is no overall, general truth that can work in every circumstance, on every student. The teacher’s role is to analyze each case individually, adapting his approach as needed.
When you’re part of a kid’s everyday life, you understand their reactions and know how to guide them. When teaching to children you come to realize how they act under pressure, when they lose concentration, you know when to push them further and when they need to be motivated.
Put yourself in their shoes
We’re biased because we see things only from our own perspective. The same can happen when we’re teaching. We usually tend to have a selective view of what’s going on and what should be done only based on our own experience and perception. What if just for a moment we stop and think “how does my student feel right now?”.
Sometimes, even without realizing it, we create a situation of stress and anxiety in the student’s mind. Like when a kid can’t answer a question, and the more we keep asking, the more he feels blocked and trapped.
Also, students keep mistaking a step over and over again simply because we don’t give them enough time to realize what is happening. Sometimes we should just let them solve the problem by themselves. The truth is that children don’t realize when to ask for more time to understand the information that they have just received. It’s up to the teacher to catch those signals and to adapt the speed and the pressure of the teaching process.
Predict the student’s reaction
An approach that can be useful in many different cases is to know ahead what reaction we want from our student and modify the way we teach in order to get exactly what we need.
It may sound cynic, but a good trainer always knows what’s the best path for his or her couples and what should be done in order to get to the destination in the most efficient way. So, we shouldn’t be afraid to adapt our teaching method, based on what our kids need the most in that specific moment.
If in one week they are going to compete at an important event and they need to be ready to show their best performance, we can’t work in the same way like we do when we’re just giving them technical information about a group of steps. The teacher has to fill the experience gap that differentiates a young dancer from an adult until they are able to manage every situation by themselves.
When to be soft and when to be tough
The more you teach, the more you can tell exactly what your student needs in a specific situation and you can predict their behavior. That, together with the goals you need to reach, will guide your teaching approach.
Here I will try to give some examples of methods you may want to use in different kind of situations:
- Completely newbie children that are starting to have their first classes or private lessons: be always positive, don’t focus too much on mistakes and if sometimes they get stuck in some steps, try to keep going and work on something else.
- Partners of different levels: if the boy is a beginner and starts dancing with a girl that is more advanced, or the other way round, be patient and be careful not to frustrate the less experienced partner. If needed, take him or her alone on private lessons so they can catch up. Motivate them and keep giving information fast enough, because being in a partnership with a more experienced dancer will make the other one improve much faster.
- One month before an important competition, it’s needed to improve the overall performance level: be tough, don’t go over mistakes, keep them focused, shape the strong competitive mindset. Don’t worry, they will not break under pressure because they see the goal, they know it’s for a reason.
- During stamina training: no excuses here…Be tough, don’t give them any possibility to complain about uncomfortable steps or any mistakes. Make sure they are always focused, ready to give their maximum. With children, many times you can get very good results by just bringing up their “adrenaline” level.
- The last lesson before a competition: the main word is “positive”. Everything should be fine, there is no time now to start working on difficult movements or get them to take in difficult concepts. Do a quick check on every dance and let them be sure and confident of themselves.
After all, only through your instinct and your experience you can react as needed in any circumstance. Teaching to children, one of the best feelings that you can get is when you are able to bring a kid from zero to success. Nevertheless, teaching to children is also one of the most challenging aspects of dancesport, yet one of the most beautiful and rewarding.
If you want to find out more about what to keep in mind when starting a dance lesson you can click here.
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Italian, dancing since the age of 5 and currently based in Moscow. With his partner Ekaterina Utkina, he is in the top 50 WDSF Adult Standard World Ranking, representing the Russian Federation.