Thoughts on acquiring teaching expertise
In this week’s seminar class, we were talking about what the novice teachers are noticing about their own teaching.
One realization was the importance of being a good boundary-setter, kind but firm, not concerned about being a child’s friend but rather focused on creating an emotionally, physically and socially safe environment. Without a firm hand, certain students strive to take control, diminishing the experience for others. It’s our job to keep that from happening in the first place, and nip it in the bud when it shows up.
Another was being skilled enough in the ‘script’ so as to be able to teach to what’s happening in front of you, rather than adhering to your intention with slavish devotion. Awareness dawns for the teacher when she can begin to shift the focus from simply delivering the instructions for the activity to recognizing the IMPACT on the students and teaching to that.
The example we discussed was based on moving across the floor. The novice teacher failed to recognize an underlying weakness in some of the students, which was that they did not feel the pulse of the music. Without a sense of phrase, they could not accomplish the movement. We seek to identify the most glaring issues first, then refine in further passes, addressing performance quality, relating to other dancers, etc.
Another realization was the importance of repetition once you’ve built up a sequence. After you’ve gone to all the effort to teach the component parts, it’s time to deepen in the experience. In this case, the novice teacher had taught the four separate phrases of Walking Song (Songs for Dancing). Ready to put the activity aside and move to reflection questions, she didn’t realize the importance of repetition for the satisfaction of enjoying and demonstrating the new skills. We lay the path….now let’s walk on it!
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