Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Things that are on my mind

I know I am not good about keeping up this blog and maybe if I wrote more about the things that are on my mind I would. This might be considered a rant or it might be mindless drivel but it is what I want to share.

I started teaching full time when I moved. I moved from a town with 5+ full time bellydance teachers to a town with none. Now I could have just went to workshops and practiced and performed, but I had a good feeling that if I taught I could find companions who loved this dance as much as I do. I wasn't sure that I felt super ready to teach even though my mentor encouraged me to. While I was moving, I spent countless hours on Bhuz reading threads of common teacher concerns, reading articles both about bellydance, teaching styles, adult education and brushing up on my bellydance history. I developed a syllabus for my first session and practiced teaching imaginary students in the mirror. I created my own beginner choreography. Why did I do all this? Because I love this dance. I love it so much that I am appalled to think that someone could be misinformed by an instructor. I recall overcoming my own bad habits as a beginner. They were bad habits I taught myself. How awful to think that a beginning students would pick up bad habits from me as their instructor.
This brings me to my complaint. It is a complaint as old as time, but I want my opinion on the record.
I believe a dancer needs to be at a certain level herself before she can ever be an instructor. Why do so many beginners go on to teaching? The same reason I wanted to teach. They are eager to share this dance with others. However, in that eagerness they lose sight of how important it is to be a master of the thing you are teaching. Many dancers think if they are one step past the beginner level then they can teach beginners. This is absolutely not the case. To teach beginners you need to be able to execute the move with near perfection and explain it at least 3 different ways. You need to be able to present combinations and choreographies that challenge beginners so that they will grow. How is this possible if you are barely past that level yourself?
All that being said, I think since I departed on this journey as a teacher I was forced to grow to that point. I wanted to do it right and every time I felt not good enough, I took a harder workshop, read another book, choreographed a more challenging dance. I pushed and pushed my own skills so as not to let my students down.
That is the level of dancing and instruction that I want my community to be exposed too. It hurts my heart and soul to see students and my community exposed to poor quality dancing and mis-information.
If a better dancer/instructor came along, I would take her classes and encourage my more advanced students to do so as well. Luckily for me, I have a day job so if that made my classes dry up I would be happy to share the dance with my new instructor and her other students.
Honestly, I am not sure I am ready to mentor someone to the point where they are ready to teach but if I ever had a friend or student who I felt was ready, I like to think I would be nothing but encouraging. If I thought the person wasn't ready but they had made up their mind I think I would play devil's advocate and try to make them see all the training and concepts they are missing or haven't thought of.

Anyway, that's my two cents on this topic.


Foxy said...

Great post!

Najla said...

I agree, great comments! There is this tendency among new dancers to jump into the teaching pool very early on. In smaller towns with fewer instructors, I think that may happen more frequently but I always shake my head at dancers in larger cities with well established teacher who decide to run out an teach after just a year or two of dancing. I think all we can do is try to keep telling students to slow down, keep studying and growing as dancers and wait before teaching too soon.