Dance teachers, you see so many students with so many different interests, personalities, priorities, and home lives. And somehow, you have become a role model for all of them! This role doesn’t apply just to dance, though. You are an important resource for your students simply as an adult they look up to regardless of setting.
Think about it. How many of your students will go on to be professional dancers one day? Certainly not all of them. While pushing them toward incredible dance aspirations and dreams is a major part of your job, so is working to make sure that whatever their plans for the future are, you are giving them a space and an art to use as an outlet for whatever they are working through at the moment.
Get to Know Your Students
Simply taking the time to get to know your students beyond just their name and face makes a big difference in how they understand the studio space. Are they coming to a cold environment to learn? Or are they coming into a welcoming space to interact with a community and express themselves?
Getting to know your dancers can mean knowing what their favorite hobbies are outside of dance, how they’re doing in school, or any number of things. The important thing here is getting to know them because they spend a lot of time trying to get to know you! Make sure they see that love and attention reciprocated.
Tackle Issues Head-On
If you recognize a situation or an issue unfolding, address it. Talk to the student(s) involved directly. It doesn’t matter if they’re having a bad day because of something simple or if they are dealing with some source of major stress in their lives. Let them know that you are a person they can come to for advice or just as someone who will listen to them.
We all need people that we can count on to support us when we need them. This is especially true when we are growing up. Letting your dancers know that you can be part of their support system is so valuable.
Don’t be Just an Authority Figure
In the studio, you are the one “in charge”. Why? Because you have the expertise and experience as a dancer to help them improve their own skills. That doesn’t mean you have to be untouchable in that space. Make your dancers feel like they are working with you, not for or beneath you. The best way to invite students to improve in anything is to treat them as equals. It won’t make them respect you less, in fact, it will probably make them respect you more.
To break down that power structure in the studio, you can simply spend time talking to your students. Before, after, or even between classes, take a moment to catch up with your students. How are their days going? What have they been up to? They will likely be eager to tell you what is going on with their lives, and they’ll want to know what you’ve been up to, too.
Take Time Outside of the Studio
How do you interact with your dancers outside of the studio? Do you interact with them at all? Of course, you want to maintain a healthy and professional relationship with your students, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut them off completely when dance class is over. Plan group activities like dinners after performances or competitions. Encourage them to go to dance-related events in your area.
Even though the majority of the time you spend with your dancers is in the studio, you are a role model and a resource for them in so many aspects of their lives. Why? Because you’re their cool dance teacher who is creative and fun and has ideas about everything. Don’t be afraid to loosen up and let them in (while maintaining that professional “line”). This will foster an incredible studio community and encourage your dancers to encourage one another to express themselves more confidently and realize that they have people who are there for them.