I remember the day I was taking a lesson from a more experienced teacher. We were working on turns in West Coast Swing. He led me in a whip with a double outside turn and then barked, “You’re flipping your head around like a fish. You should know better, you’re a teacher!”
I tried my best to keep my head aligned as I held back tears. On my way home I cried like a baby. I felt defeated and hopeless. I wondered whether I should reconsider my career as a ballroom dance teacher.
The next day I took a lesson from my other teacher. We laughed, worked hard, and I learned new concepts. He told me, “Diane, you are really improving. You are moving so much better and your frame is excellent. Your arms are so light and responsive.”
I left that lesson feeling great. What a difference from my experience the day before!
Was I wrong to be so sensitive and hurt by my first teacher’s comments? Being a professional, shouldn’t I have been able to “take it”?
As I contemplate this experience now, 30 years later, I clearly see what was going on. My first teacher (the critical one) had one style of teaching, regardless of who he was teaching. His attitude was “It’s my way or the highway.”
In Salesfree Sales (a program for dance professionals on retaining students without sales pitches or gimmicks) we discuss the issue of who has to adjust to whom: student to teacher, or teacher to student? My opinion is that the teacher needs to adjust to the student.
We also discuss personality styles in Salesfree Sales, breaking them down into four basic styles:
- Happy Hoofer
- Steady Stepper
- Patient Partner
- Logical Lilter
I am a “Patient Partner”. Characteristics of this personality style include:
- Relationships are of utmost importance
- Likes harmony and community
- Likes to be spoken to kindly
- Is thoughtful of others and expects others to be thoughtful of them
There’s much more to teaching than explaining how to spin. If teachers are aware that students have particular personality traits, doesn’t it make sense for the teacher to adjust his/her behavior to get along well with and best serve those students? I think it’s important for every teacher to develop the ability to change their teaching style to match each student’s personality and learning style (even if that student is a dance teacher!).
I’m not sure an exasperated and judgmental declaration like, “You’re flipping your head around like a fish” is appropriate for any personality style, but it definitely doesn’t work for a “Patient Partner”!
What’s Your Opinion?
Dance Teachers: Do you adjust your teaching to match your students? Share how you do this (or why you don’t).
I wholeheartedly agree. When I have gone with what I think they should know I have found much resistance in my students and myself. When I go at my students pace then they are happier, more focused on learning the details of the dance, and they leave feeling inspired and thirsty for more dancing.