Today I’m covering the topic of belly dancing mistakes from the perspective of a teacher. I wanted to go over some common mistakes we make as instructors, whether it’s in a class, in a workshop, or even in a private lesson.
Underestimating Your Own Material
One of the biggest mistakes I see teachers make, and I am totally guilty of this, too, is that sometimes we think our material is too simple. We think our students are going to get bored, not be entertained, and not be challenged. However, you might be surprised to know that many people like the simplicity of what you are teaching, especially when you break it down. Just because you think it’s too simple doesn’t mean that your students will.
When we think the content is too simple we can easily lean the other way and make it too complex. When we get too complex, our students don’t get to learn the material as easily. There is nothing wrong with doing something with more complexity and layers, but we still have to be able to break it down into digestible pieces so people walk out feeling like they got it.
If people feel like they don’t get it, then they feel like they wasted their time. Or, they get disappointed and upset that they walked into a class expecting to learn something, but couldn’t because the teacher couldn’t break it down in a way they could understand it. If you’re going to make your material complex, then make sure that you break it down in a way that most people in the class can get it, so they can at least get most of it.
Assuming Students Are Bored in the Classroom
As the teacher, there are times that we think, if we’re bored then our students are bored. That is not true at all. A lot of times I have been checked by my students when I ask them if they are doing fine and they say yes, and they are digesting the material just fine. Sometimes during the class, you get a blank stare from a student, and as the teacher, you think that the material is not landing with them. You might even second guess yourself a bit. But if you take a second to step back you can try and understand what they are feeling. They could just be absorbing what they just learned and waiting for the next thing you are going to teach. Just because we think a student is bored doesn’t mean they are.
You can check in with your students if you think they are bored. Check to see if they are overwhelmed or not being challenged enough. It’s always good to talk with them and have ways to align the material in your lesson plan with their needs. That way, they can demonstrate what you’ve been showing them.
Not Making Time for Repetition
It’s really important as an instructor that you make sure there’s always time for repetition, run-throughs, questions, and then more run-throughs again. Sometimes, getting questions helps make the run-throughs more clear, or the combination of the choreography clear.
When you run it through again, people have more time to practice the correct movement that you want them to get. Make sure that you do multiple run-throughs, don’t just do it once and then move on.
Not Teaching From Multiple Orientations
You want to make sure that you’re teaching from multiple orientations. When I’m teaching I’m moving around the room and showing them demonstrations either head on or showing me dancing in a profile view. So remember to move around your room. I’m not going to just stand at center stage. I want to stand over to the right and then move over to the left. I also want to talk and work my area kind of like as if I were doing a performance. I want to work the entire stage.
It’s really important that we don’t just stay in one place and talk. Students start to get desensitized when we just see one person in one place for so long. The stimulus doesn’t register as much. However, when you see people move slightly and you keep your eyes tracking, then we are more engaged. If I give more body language to my students, they feel their body language too. It also taps into visual learners a little bit more kinesthetically, if they feel this movement when you’re teaching.
Other ways to teach are to use metaphors and analogies that can help bring the information to different learners in new ways.
Speak Clearly When Teaching
If you’re teaching a workshop, and you do not have a microphone, you need to speak loudly. Even when people say they can hear you, I really find that if the instructor takes it up one more notch, it’s better. And the reason why I say that is as the lecture or the teaching continues to go through the hour or the two hours, we get really comfortable with each other and we start to get more of a conversation level of volume versus a teaching projection volume. Talking low and conversationally will make people mellow out too much and they will have a hard time keeping up with the energy of the class.
If you’re wanting to do that, that’s great. But if you’re not, and you want to keep people more engaged and excited, then you will need to keep things in a certain environment. Your students should feel like “whoa, yeah, let’s do it.”
Plan Your Material Ahead of Time
Think through your material ahead of time. I’ve been to workshops where I was flabbergasted at the format because it was supremely disorganized. Everything was just out of place. I forgot what I was there for and I wanted to leave the workshop because it wasn’t serving me in my education.
So, as an instructor, do yourself and do your students a favor, think ahead, have an outline. Have a plan and practice speaking out loud about what you want to talk about ahead of time. By the time you are teaching it, if you get interrupted or if you get sidetracked with something, you always have an outline cemented to bring you back into your material.
While you’re thinking ahead and outlining your class, make sure you plan enough material. There are times when Instructors may run out of material. So, what can we do when we have 15 minutes left? We can ask questions and we can have conversations. And if you want to outline your class that way, that’s totally fine. But own it and know that’s what you’re doing versus not having enough material to teach.
It is better to over-plan and have too much material that you can cut out because of your time constraints than not having enough and grabbing at straws. This doesn’t best serve our students.
Be Easily Reachable
One of the last things I’m going to talk about is more of a business aspect. Be sure to leave your students information on how to contact you after the class. They may have specific questions or they may want to just reach out and learn from you more. If they can’t get a hold of you, you’ll miss out on the chance to further their education.
Make sure you have a business card with your contact information. Whether it’s a business card, a flyer, or a newsletter signup sheet, have people sign up ahead of time as they’re entering the class versus doing it afterward. With events and workshops, have participants sign in so you have their contact info and can follow up…they may not have time afterwards and have places to be.
You want them sign up for the newsletter in the beginning of your class. Just have it available for anyone who missed it when they first came in. Make sure there’s a way for people to follow up with you, to find out more about you so that they can promote your business and spread the love of belly dance.