Teachers have gone back and forth on this issue forever: Is it a good idea to use a teacher’s assistant in class? Some are like I was and would prefer that the teacher be the sole authority in the classroom with no distraction or conflict. Others would never jump into teaching a class of 3 year olds without an assistant!
There are definitely pros and cons to the idea. Most of the issues I’ve come across come by finding myself in a classroom with assistants who don’t really know their jobs. What the dance assistant is responsible for should be made clear from the beginning, and the bar should be set high for those mature enough to take on the challenge.
One of the ways Ruth Brinkerhoff incorporated assistants was by having those who were interested go through a type of training program before being allowed to assist in class. The following article was distributed to her assistants and they were expected to read it and follow its principles.
For the Dance Assistant
Assisting your dance teacher with younger classes is a wonderful way to learn about teaching dance. The extent of your responsibilities will depend upon your age and your maturity.
If your teacher has chosen you for an assistant, realize she is placing trust in you, and in your ability to be mature enough to handle the job. Trust her in return, trust her leadership, trust her advice. The two of you must work together as a team, but always with the teacher in charge, and you as the backup person.
Become acquainted with the classwork and the dances the class is learning. Memorize all of it as soon as you can. You will need to get a feel for how your teacher relates to the class, and how she guides them through the dance work.
You must be ready to demonstrate any of the work to the class as needed. The teacher presents the activity or exercise, then lets you know whether she wants you to do it as a demonstrator in front of the class. To do this well, you must learn the work. Some will be the same each week, but if a new item is presented, you must learn it immediately; be a “quick study.”
Whether you face the students, or demonstrate with your back to them will depend on your teacher’s method. She may have you do it differently at different times. When you face the class, mirror them, and start with the opposite foot.
2. Giving Individual Help
If you see a student having trouble with a movement, and you are free to do so, give them some help, quietly, gently, and with a friendly and positive attitude. Give some praise if they respond correctly.
You can help the class as needed in lining up, forming circles, being ready to start. Sometimes your teacher may want you to take one or two students aside at the back for special help.
Avoid openly criticizing a student. Instead, ask them individually, and quietly if they’d like some help with that step.
3. Helping to Manage the Class
Learn the students’ names as soon as you can. Your teacher might give you instructions on helping them find the right place to dance, and she might tell you if certain students need to dance apart from each other.
Dancers of all ages have personality and behavioral differences. Your teacher may want you to help guide their behavior, to help them learn what is appropriate for dance class.
4. Care of the Dancers
As an assistant, you now share some of the responsibility for keeping the students safe from injury, and for encouraging happy, friendly feelings within the class. Be positive in helping them to keep the rules of safety and courtesy. Be on the watch for any behavior that might lead to injury, or to damaging property.
5. Music and Props
Sometimes, your teacher might want you to run the music, so she can concentrate more on the students. Learn how to work the equipment, and how to quickly find the music your teacher uses.
Come a few minutes early (See “Plan for Success”) and help your teacher get equipment and props ready. During class help to make sure the props used in the class are used correctly, and passed out and gathered up with minimal disruption.
6. Your Behavior
Come dressed as if you were a teacher. You are a role model for the students. As an assistant, the students will look up to you, and copy you in how you dress, how you dance, and in how you treat people.
Be a support to your teacher, stand by her and show respect for her and her studio rules. Never say anything negative about her, and never correct her openly in front of students. If you feel she needs a reminder during class, go to her and whisper it very quietly, and only if this item cannot wait until after class. Use good judgment.
When talking to parents, always be positive, encouraging, and supportive of your teacher. If you cannot answer a parent’s question, promise to get the answer from the teacher when she is available.
Being a dance teacher’s assistant is a real job requiring more maturity and dependability than just being a student. Take your job seriously. Be there when you are supposed to be; be there when you are needed. If, for any reason, you need to be late, or absent, let your teacher know just as soon as you can.
May you enjoy your job as a dance teacher’s assistant! May you enjoy working with your teacher, and sharing a part of her responsibility. Most of all, may you share her enjoyment in seeing the progress made by the students.
What great advice for the young teacher’s assistant! Do you think this article would prove helpful in training the dance assistants at your school? Click the below to download this article for distribution at your school.
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