Dear Exercise and Dance Teachers, How about actually TEACHING?

I’ve taken ballet, modern, jazz, and contemporary dance classes. I’ve taken Zumba, Bar Method, barre3, Pure Barre, Lagree Megaformer, Pilates, yoga, and even yogalates classes. I’ve paid as much as $20 for a 50-minute class. I am always looking for good teachers.

I don’t know how many hours teachers spend in certification or training programs, but I’ve encountered too many who lack a deep knowledge of body mechanics and alignment. Showing off what you can do is not teaching.

Too often dance teachers (especially professional ballet dancers) take their own class. Yes, I can learn something from watching you. But, if I am paying you to teach me, how about watching what I’m doing and offering advice, correction, or specific compliments?

Teaching should attend to people’s needs. Teachers should engage students while sharing their knowledge and expertise. To learn and improve students need feedback including individual correction, encouragement, and support.

Here’s my advice:

Introduce yourself and ask new students their names.

A personal touch goes a long way. When teachers only engage with people they already know one can feel very unwelcome. This may be the first step toward keeping a new client’s business.

Help students perform exercises correctly.

Good form is vital. An exercise done correctly is beneficial rather than potentially harmful. Some people have difficulty following verbal instructions while moving. Watch and see if adjustments are being made, and if not, get up close and personal to demonstrate.

Offer modifications.

If a student can’t execute with proper form, offer an alternative. Most classes have a variety of students of different ages, body types, and abilities. A teacher should understand how to modify to help an individual with limitations or an injury.

Be sure you can be clearly understood.

Talking too loudly using a mic so you can be heard over loud music sometimes just makes you loud, not intelligible. Ask if you can be heard and understood.

Choose your music thoughtfully.

Have music that is the proper tempo for the exercise. Faster is not always better. Maybe even vary the decade of the musical selection to please people of different generations.

If your dance students can’t do the combination without watching you they aren’t learning it.

Break the combination into smaller pieces. Repeat part 1 many times and then add part 2. If you need to do the combination for students to follow you, then you can’t watch them and help.

Keep learning.

Good teachers keep studying their subjects and craft. This will keep you fresh and able to offer more to your students. Your regulars will appreciate new material.

Remember that your students are paying you. They are making time in their lives to both get fit and find joy through movement. Give them your best.

To those of you who understand and already apply this advice and more a sincere and heartfelt thank you.

Math teacher, dancer, choreographer, mother of two grown daughters. Beginning to write as I enjoy a trimester long sabbatical.