Friday, January 13, 2012

Find the Teacher That Suits YOU

Considering stepping out of your comfort zone and taking up dance for the New Year? Good for you! I wish you an enriching, fun journey - for that's what it is. They say that if you're embarking on a long trip, make sure you enjoy the company of whoever you're traveling with. As far as I'm concerned, that's great advice for taking up a new skill, too.

The teacher you choose has a lot to do with how good of a dancer you become. Of course you’ll want to find a good instructor, someone who can get you the results you want - who wouldn't. But how do you know if someone is a good teacher for YOU? I figure that anyone who’s going to teach you to dance needs to have two things: good disposition and good training. We'll chat about training another time, because I think it's more of a no-brainer. Disposition, however, is far too easy to overlook during the selection process.

Good disposition is difficult to measure, but you’ll know it when you see it. Someone who genuinely enjoys people, loves to teach, and has a good attitude is fun to be around. This is a teacher who can put even the most reluctant students at ease. And that’s probably the first thing you should look for – do I feel comfortable with this person? Thirty-one years of perfect dance training won’t help if the teacher makes you miserable. Unless you’re just into that kind of thing - and believe me, I've seen people who are - impatient, intimidating personalities don’t always get the best results.

It grates on my nerves when I hear teachers barking at their students and marginalizing their efforts. Fortunately, I've found it to be the insane exception, and I've never heard it in my home studio in Avondale.

Anyone curious about the process is welcome to observe any of my lessons (as long as you're nice and respectful to my students!). Watch how I interact with my students, both the newbies and the veterans. See how I communicate with them, how I pick on them, and how I encourage them. I try to approach my students with respect, compassion, and humor. I don't laugh at their mistakes until they're tough enough to take it. By then, they've seen me laugh at my own foibles a few times - and probably laughed right along with me.

I could be looking for a Spanish tutor, a piano teacher, or a calculus instructor. I'd want them all to have the same qualities: treat me with respect, handle me with compassion, and teach me with humor. But as usual, that's just me, and it may not be the way for you. What will be important for you is to give it a think and look for an instructor who has the qualities that will be most conducive to your own learning process. Happy dancing!

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