For Teachers

Why I Stopped Demonstrating In My Classes

9:13 AM

Many different teachers work in different ways. Some sit in a chair with a stick. Others do every combo with their students. Still others fall somewhere in-between. Is there a "best way?" No, because not all students learn the same way, and every teacher has a certain style they teach best.

There's a best way for me. And that's walking around, making corrections, getting on the floor to help, and teaching with a hands-on approach.

But you won't find me demonstrating a combination.

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I wear yoga pants, Apolla Shocks, and a studio t-shirt when I go into the studio. Many times I wear my arch supportive Merrell slip-ons as well. But it is so rare that I actually dance and demonstrate in my classes anymore! It's so unusual that sometimes it shocks people. "What do you mean, you don't dance in your classes?"

I used to do everything with my kids. My ballet teacher did a full barre with us every day. It was very rare that she would sit. And I don't always sit, per se, but I don't do the combinations I give.

There are a few reasons I've chosen to do this.

1. I'm sick and tired of my students (especially beginners) copying me. When I do a tendu to the side with correct articulation, rotation, opposition, and resistance, my students (especially the younger ones) only see "point your foot to the side." So that's what they do. They I have to go over and correct their position, teach the articulation and the muscle usage, and explain the movement of it.

It makes no sense.

Because now I'm creating a mistake and then I have to fix it. That's extra work for both of us.

Wouldn't it make more sense to do it correctly from the beginning?

So instead, I teach them exercises to train their body and teach concepts to train their minds. Then I use language and visualization to teach them a step without showing them what it "looks like."

2. They are responsible for the movement. If a student is copying me, I'm responsible for doing it right. But if I give them a set of steps and instructions, they are responsible for both remembering the combo, and executing the steps correctly. (Especially if I tell them right up front "I'm not doing this with you, so you'd better learn it!)

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3. Their alignment is correct. If the movement comes from them and is not based on my body, I find that I no longer have to correct alignment. For example, if I tell a student to go to First Position, and stretch their leg straight out like a diagonal line from their big toe, they are in a correct tendu position.

4. It makes the rare times I do demonstrate something very special. I usually start off by saying "Don't do this until I'm done teaching it to you." (There's a reason for that and I'll get into it later). Then I say, "I'm only going to do this once, so you'd better watch." because I usually can't do it more than once or twice anyway.

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5. Arthritis. I have a small amount of arthritis in my knees, hands, shoulders, feet, and hips. The less bone-on-bone grinding I can put myself through now, the less likely it is that I'll have to have major surgery in my 40s. Meanwhile, I'll continue to take my Oligo Vitamins (which have already made a difference) and drink my bone broth. Despite my husband's complaints that I'm serving him "bone soup."

Let me just clarify that I do often demonstrate with my intermediate and advanced students, but they already have their execution figured out. It's the ages 6-12 that I avoid it!

So teachers, don't underestimate the power of not dancing.

And parents, don't assume your child's teacher is just lazy because they don't demonstrate! (demonstrating is way easier. describing and teaching is very hard).

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