Setting Yourself Up for Success in the Classroom

I am sure that all of us dance teachers, whether seasoned or new, have had more than our fair share of struggles in the classroom.  It could be coming up with teaching material from week to week, dealing with the dynamics of parent-teacher relationships, and who hasn't dealt with a difficult child?!

But if you can properly prepare the lessons, classroom, and yourself beforehand, you will have a greater chance of success.  I know, I know.  You've taught before.  You know how to prep for classes.  But here is just one MUST-DO strategy that will make a world of difference in your teaching and the response from the kids...It's PREPARING so that you can prevent the issues before they start.  

Yes, I know it seems like a simple solution.  I am sure dance teachers are well prepared, but let's go a little deeper, and explain exactly what I mean and how through preparation you CAN prevent issues in the classroom in a positive way.

1.) First things first, you must prepare the space so that it is clean, safe, and free from distractions.  Don't make it more difficult on yourself and the students!  That corner that you store sparkly costumes in?  Clear it out.  Extra chairs and barres?  Gone.  Parents waving through the viewing window?  This is a decision to be made between the teacher and studio owner, but be prepared to possibly make a change.  Consider swapping the paint on the walls for cool, calm colors and make sure the lighting is bright and the space welcoming.

2.) Next, make sure YOU are fully prepared.  Children can be very sensitive to adult emotions, and when they can sense something is off in our lives, they too are 'off'.  I myself have noticed that when I am tired or stressed, the students tend to be a little more squirmy and not listen or follow directions to their ability.  Do whatever you need to do to go into that classroom happy, energetic, and present.  Maybe it's showing up 45 minutes early to review your lesson plans and stretch, or getting a special coffee drink before class, or listening to mood-lifting music on your commute...whatever it is, do that.  I make a point of avoiding phone calls, emails, and social media for the last 15-30 minutes before I teach.  Nothing can derail your emotions like a heavy phone call or message!  Having yourself prepared in mind and body helps you to be more present and engaged, helping those students to stay more fully engaged, too.

3.) Properly prepare your lessons and music.  You MUST go in with a written plan, and also a backup plan if your planned activity needs to go out the window that day.  Check and double check everything--you should not ever have to leave your students because you forgot a prop or piece of music! If you are well prepared, that leaves little to no time in between activities for the students to lose focus or misbehave. 

4) And then over-prepare.  Sometimes it becomes obvious that that skill or activity we intended on teaching will not be received well by the students that particular day, for whatever the reason. Always have one or two activities and any corresponding visuals, props, or music ready at a moments notice so you can move on seamlessly.  No need to make a big deal out of it or draw attention.  The students do not need to be made aware that they are throwing you off your original plan.  Mark the change in your lesson plan and plan to attempt the activity again next week.

Adequate preparation of your emotions, your space, and your lessons will help you prevent any off-task behaviors before they start and should make your class run smoothly and allow for more efficient use of time.  

Comment below:  How do you prepare yourself for class?