I believe in doing my best to be a good instructor for my students. So I wanted to cover some points because I feel like it helped me outline what it meant to be a better teacher and to make sure to give my students what they are looking for when they come to class.
One of the things I keep in mind is that class is about the student. It is not about us as the instructor. When you keep in mind that class is about students, you start to gear your instruction towards them. You begin to focus more on them, and it takes the focus off of yourself. I say this because people think, “Oh, it’s my class, I get to do what I want to do”, but at the same time you have to ask yourself if this is serving the student best. You have to ask if it is serving the people who are walking into your studio best.
We want to make sure that they feel welcome and they are being supported. It could be through great customer service, listening to their needs or whatever that entails for you. Just make sure it’s about them.
One way to keep it about your students is to understand how your students learn. I think this is vital information for you to know but something that is often looked over. You should know if they are kinesthetic learners, visual learners or auditory learners. You should know if they need to write and take notes or record some of the class. Knowing the types of learners that are in your class is important because you may have to change your class dynamic and the way you instruct to make sure all of your students receive the information well.
If I want to teach them a hip drop and they are an auditory learner, and all I do the whole class is show the moves over and over without narrating, the student may not get the lesson because you’re not saying anything. It will also help them know how to better teach themselves if you convey your teaching in a way they connect with.
Adjusting to individual learning styles is something that students will appreciate. They appreciate when you take the time to learn how they learn, and then students can turn around and teach themselves from what they learned from you.
I like to touch base with my students and ask them what they like and didn’t in class. I want to know what types of things they want to see more of or and what types of things they want to go over less in a class. You’ll be surprised at the answers. Something that you thought was so popular they might not want to learn, or something you don’t spend a lot of time on they really want you to do more of.
It’s really important to identify what they are looking for and why they are coming to class to see you.
Sometimes the students’ experience is based on the teacher’s way of being. If you’re having a bad day or a great day, it can wear off on your students as you go through the class. Whether or not you think it is, it’s conveyed through your body language and how people read us.
You should teach something you are confident in. You should only be teaching things you are qualified to teach. Don’t try to teach something you don’t quite have the footing for. There is something that is conveyed to students when you teach something you’re not confident in, and it can leave them feeling uncertain about the information.
If you’re confident in the subject matter, absolutely teach it! But if you’re not confident in it, ask yourself why that is. Then work on filling in that gap of not being satisfied until you are confident and then let your students know when you are ready to teach this new skill.
If you are not confident in the information you are presenting and making sure that it’s accurate, it’s going to come across to your students as less credible, as something they should double-check with another teacher or amongst themselves. You don’t want to discredit yourself by making your students feel that they can’t trust the information you are presenting. That’s why it’s important only to teach something you are well versed in and feel good about.
I love improvisation, but I also loved planning things. If you can outline what you want to cover in the class, that means you have a little more time to prepare, dive in, and have the opportunity to evaluate if you have enough material to cover that entire class. You always want to over-plan just a little bit so that if the class moves faster than you had anticipated, you still have material.
It’s not a great feeling when you go to a class, and the teacher obviously ran out of information, and they are just buying time to get you through. You don’t feel like you get good value out of that class as a student. As a teacher, it’s our duty to ensure we are providing the value for our students. By outlining your class, you can do that more effectively.
This is even true about knowing what you want to teach in your next class too. Your students are going to ask and want to know what is coming up next. It’s different if everyone of your classes is a drop-in and there is no planning, but even then, you should have some idea unless you are waiting on feedback from that specific session to know what else they would like to learn.
When you’re planning the class you’re about to teach, you want to have in mind the next class as well. This allows for a more fluid process of your teaching because you can refer to something in the future and give students a sense of long-term education. There is also a feeling of continuity that helps students see how they get from one level to the next. Make sure you are building up to something more. It leaves the students feeling like you are going somewhere with the teaching and it’s not just taking a one-and-done class. They can look forward to the next step. Students appreciate your forward-thinking where they know they are learning something now so that they can better do something else later.
If I’m teaching a technique for something very complex, and I don’t start all the way in the beginning with the end goal in mind, what ends up happening is that I have to backtrack. It’s not a good feeling and it hurts credibility and the trust in the process from student to teacher. If you have the end goal in mind for just 2-3 classes you can build in the process for your students effectively and efficiently.
People love handouts. I know it’s not the best use of paper but print it double-sided and be concise about the notes and even let them take their own notes on the paper. Instead of writing up everything, give them just the highlights. Handouts are great because they give students a sense of control over their education and earning process and it give them something tangle especially for kinesthetic learners. I always get great feedback from students when I print handouts.
I know when I don’t prep my music ahead of time I’m fumbling for the piece when it’s time to dance. It’s one thing to have things in different playlists and you have to revert back an forth, but it’s better to consolidate it into one if possible. It makes for a more seamless session and gives a better flow to the class.
When you go to have students apply what they just learned to music you won’t be fumbling with the sound. We have all been there and done that and technical problems happen but as much as you can, prepare the music ahead of time. Then you’ll also be able to prep the information to credit the music you are using and send that to your students.
Improvisation is important to plan into your class. A lot of time students will ask questions and it turns out to be something really important you want to expand on and bring it into the class. You’ll spend 5 -10 minutes talking about something that wasn’t in your outline. It’s great to plan for those moments because those are important spur-of-the-moment questions.
Leave room and space for in-the-moment creativity, innovation, and questions that might pop up. I thrive in on-the-fly moments. If you’re like me you’ll be happy when this happens. This allows you to have improvisation without diminishing the quality of your class. Just like when we are performing and want to leave room for in-the-moment performance, we can do that in our classes. In your outline, leave a little space and be sure to check in with students during the class before the last few minutes at the end. Make sure you’re periodically asking, “does anyone have questions?”
Whatever you outline for your class, or whatever you plan on doing, you should also practice that before you teach it and not just do it for the first time the movement class starts. Figure out if something is harder than you thought. Students need to trust you and your teaching process and the class hinges on how they are left feeling. If you find you cannot execute your own material how can you give them the confidence that they will?
Go through your own outline, practice what you say, and practice the movements. Rehearse concepts to make sure you can communicate effectively what it is that you want to teach. You don’t want to get in the middle of it and have that “oh shizzzz” face and have to change it up.
Yes, we are human and we make mistakes but we want to minimize those moments as much as possible in class.
Checking your technology before your classes start is the thing to do nowadays. Check that it works. Just in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been checking my setups whether it’s online platforms, stereo or microphone and all of a sudden, it just wonks out. It’s happened to me four times in just the last few weeks.
Make sure you test all your technology as much as possible right before class to make sure everything is working right. If it’s not, make sure you have your back ups ready. I have 3 microphones, which you don’t need that many, but having at least 1 backup is good. Know your technology well enough that if you can’t make it do something you can reroute it to work another way.
Can the students teach the information back to you?
Can the student repeat it back to you or even teach you the information back. This is one of the ways that can show if they really got the information. Is the way you’re presenting the information easy to grasp and understand? Or are you convoluting your words so much and not making it concise enough that the student cannot get what you are saying and they are mentally exhausted in a bad way after the class.
If someone just wanted in my door, depending on the level of complexity of your class, would they be able to understand what I am saying to them. There is a way to lead into more specific or complex language in a class and not just start it off the bat. Start with the most basic descriptions and then as students are getting the moves, you can start going into more complex ways of talking about it.
Ask yourself how you are teaching with language. Is it understandable in a way that a student could teach it back to you and you know if they really got it. It’s good to mentally check in on how you teach and present things.
I love being a teacher. And how you teach often comes from what goals you have in mind. Are you authentic? Or are you just trying to make money from a class? You want to get down to why you teach belly dancing in the first place.
A good teacher wants to be of service to the people who walk through their studio. They are authentic and never saying anything they don’t believe in. People can feel when their teachers are not genuine and you’ll see students stop coming back to your classes because it can be uncomfortable.
Find your purpose and mission in teaching students and then stand in that every time you teach. If it’s about them then the purpose and mission will be about them too. Yes, we teach because we love it, have a passion for it, and it means something to us, but it also has to mean something to our students.
We need to make sure we are very clear on that so that the student feels our passion, our care and our kindness. We must have a willingness to go find information and bring it back to the student in a way that they can understand. Believe in what you do.
Many teachers don’t understand the type of influence they have on other people and it’s important to be clear on your mission when you teach other people because they look up to you. They are looking to you as an expert in the field and they are looking up to you with trust that you are a good source of information.
Also being clear on your missions helps you be more disciplined and committed to your practice, which leads us to be a better instructor and be there for our students.
I know that was a lot, and I want to say that we are never looking for perfectionist teachers. We are looking for people who are growing every day and becoming better teachers. If we aren’t growing, then our students are not growing. Keep these things in mind and try one out or a few out at a time. You’ll get some feedback from your students on your changes, and you’ll know if you are going in the right direction. Let them know you want the feedback to grow as a teacher, and you will be surprised how easy it is to start adding in these tips.
Learning how to bring your classes to the next level can be a lot. If you are looking for guided help to be a teacher who helps their students get the most from their classes and get repeat students class after class you can check out my Badass Teachers Academy. I work with teachers to help you be your best for yourself and your students.
I love to hear from you! What do you think makes you a better teacher, and what do you do to prepare to teach a class?