A Great Teacher

"I have come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt to heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized." -Haim Ginott

A Great Teacher...


Accepts the role of giver of knowledge:

This means they must know their stuff. They must know how to break it down and explain it in detail. They must know how to give the knowledge in a progression that makes sense to their students' cognitive development and emotional maturity. Teachers need to be prepared in the delivery of their material to prevent over stimulation of their students. But also, a great teacher teaches properly. How many times have you received a student from another studio or dance school who is doing pirouettes incorrectly? Or lifting their hip in a grand battement? We must teach proper dance. We must expect our students to execute the moves properly. It isn't fair to give a student a "watered down" version of dance education, and call yourself a "school of dance."

Accepts the role of enforcer of behavior and dance etiquette:

Teachers should already have their personal philosophy on behavior management before the first day of class. Know exactly what you expect from your students; communicate the expectations clearly; enforce the rules (your own rules, and the rules of dance etiquette) without bias or discrimination. Stay consistent, and don't fear the authority you have in your students' lives.

Models good behavior, positivity and proper execution of dance moves:

Teachers are viewed as super heroes in the eyes of their students. We heard a story that a little dancer once saw one of her teachers in the grocery store. She rushed over to her mother to say, "Miss Dance Teacher eats food too!" Students believe teachers live in a different world, on a different level. Don't abuse that. Live your life the way you want your students to live. Be positive. Execute the dance moves with passion and precision. Show them exactly how you expect them to behave, perform and interact with their fellow dancers.

Accepts the responsibility to keep learning:

Attend classes on your own! Attend workshops! Talk with other teachers! Read books! Our goal is to teach our students that learning - continuous, lifelong learning - will help us grow as individuals which can directly affect the growth of our communities and world. We must continue learning to continue sharing our knowledge. My ballet teacher once said, "If you don't use your brain, you'll forget how to!"

Understands their students:

Get to know your students. William Glasser says that humans are driven by 5 psychological needs: 1) The need for survival 2) The need to belong 3) The need for power 4) The need for freedom 5) The need for fun. Try to understand how these affect your students' daily behavior when they approach a new learning day. These may shift based on the task, the day, and their emotions. Know how to reach them, encourage them, approach them, correct them.

Creates a safe, fun and inspiring learning environment:

Make your learning space a sacred space. Establish specific behavior goals. Establish early on how students will treat the space. Tell students you have three "base line" rules that always remain as a foundation: 1) We must respect the Art of Dance 2) We must respect the learning happening in this space 3) We must respect each other. If the students break one of these, give them some time to consider how and why they violated one of the "base line" rules.


Create a class that promotes FUN and INQUISITIVE THINKING. You want them to be challenged, and you want them to leave feeling good. When we create our classes, there is always a deliberate "fun" point (that can be something as simple as running around the classroom aimlessly, or creating a game with competition) and a "thinking" point (where we ask the students to think about something they are learning or dealing with in life, and relate that to dance). We promote an environment that encourages students to be internally motivated. We explain that only THEY can make themselves better dancers, we are only here to provide exercises as the vehicle to becoming a good dancer. We never beg a student to dance. We allow them to choose for themselves how their day/class/learning will be. We also explain to them (and show them) the results of what they could be if they work really hard.

Teaches, appreciates and adds quality to a student's life:

Quality, according to William Glasser, means 1) caring for each other 2) it's always useful 3) it always involves hard work on someone's part 4) when we are involved with it, as either a provider or receiver, it always feels good. Provide quality lessons for your students. Encourage them to care for each other, be useful, work hard, be involved and feel good. Show them how to add to people's lives in a positive, influential way.

Has their students accept responsibility for their learning and behavior:

Learning isn't just about having the students listen and repeat. Have the students take responsibility for their learning as well as their behavior. Have them understand how they act affects how others learn and act. Together, we are a team. Together, we are on a journey. We always call our classes "a family." We say, "Let's try this together as a family." This always makes them giggle, but they end up helping each other, supporting each other, cheering each other on when they need it, and giving each other space if they are getting frustrated. They function as a unit, and as strong individuals there for each other to lean on.

Actively listens:

Pay attention to what your students and their parents say. Listen, ponder, ask questions, be involved. You are more valuable as a teacher if you understand where your student is in life, and how they function, how they process and what they want. Actively listening can lift a lot of clouds, prevent a lot of emotional strain, and foster genuine learning and changes in a student.

Isn't afraid to admit when they are wrong:

We are not perfect beings (though we'd like to be!) When we get something wrong, we admit it. We shake the dust off, and we try again. Teaching can be a lot all at once. While we try to prevent over stimulation in our students, we find ourselves often over stimulated: trying to remember names, needs, behavioral issues, allergies, material, curriculum, timing, on and on. We cannot be afraid to mess up, admit our mistakes, and lean on our fellow teachers. We cannot be afraid to admit that we are human beings.

What we do MATTERS. Take it seriously. Be exciting. Encourage positivity. Guide lives. Be a great teacher.



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Design & Development by Shane Jeffers