Every dance studio is different with its own set of rules and expectations, but one thing remains the same throughout: children will be children. No matter where I teach, I find that there are certain little tricks that children try to play on us as teachers. We should be aware of these “attention-getters” so that we can maintain order and discipline in our classrooms.
These can be “bait with a hook inside”. They can distract you from what you were about to teach the class. Of course, we want our students to ask questions that are pertinent to the classroom experience, but sometimes students abuse the right to raise their hands. As the teacher, you may have to limit their question-asking.
Depending on their age and maturity, their questions may truly be out of curiosity. Be careful not to stifle their desire to know and their innocent sense of wonder about the world around them. Unfortunately, it is more common to encounter students who are using questions to stall or distract.
2. “My other dance teacher did . . .”
Another “bait and hook,” intended to get you competing with the other teacher. This is, of course, inappropriate for them to discuss with the class, and should be discouraged. “I’m so glad you got to do that with Ms. Jones. Now we are in my classroom and what we will be doing might be different, so get ready to learn!” Encourage them with the promise that they will be learning some things they’ve already done, and other things they’ve never done! Either way, your experience with them will be unique, and that that should be an exciting thing for them.
Yes, poking the kid next to them, then looking to see if you noticed. Personal boundaries should be discussed early in the year so that everyone knows what is expected. Assigning individual spots on the floor can help with maintaining those boundaries. Once expectations have been laid out, this kind of rule should be firmly kept.
4. Need to go to the bathroom.
This one is very difficult at first. However, once the class rule and expectation is established, it becomes less of a problem. Only one child should leave the room at a time. If you have an assistant take them, it avoids problems. With enough practice and time, you can have even your 3 & 4 year olds going through your whole class with little to no bathroom breaks. It’s all about your expectation. If it looks like a habit is forming with a certain student, mention it to the parent.
5. Messing with visual aids or other equipment.
All sound equipment such as speakers, mp3 players, cords, and iPads should be kept out of reach of the students. As the use of iPads in the classroom increases, teachers need to be aware that leaving their iPads on the floor can be a distraction to the students as well as a risk for damage. The students need to know that they must stand on their designated spots and they are not allowed to leave them without permission.
This also goes for leaving the dance space to rummage through their belongings. I had a six year-old student quickly bolt out of the dancer’s circle and across the room to her dance bag last week. When I recovered her and brought her back into the circle, I asked her what she needed over there. “My hair clip,” she replied. The students will do better if they know that you expect them to stay in their places. If they need anything, or feel they must leave their place for some reason, they must request your permission.
6. Talking out inappropriately.
Enforce your rules firmly, to the whole class. Give everyone attention as you discuss in simple terms that dancers don’t do that. This keeps the offender from getting your undivided attention, and is a subtle negative reinforcement of the talking out.
I also use the idea of a “Bag of Goodies” in my classes so that the students properly prepare themselves for class. This is something we do sitting in a circle. The teacher and students pull out and put on their “listening ears”, “pay attention eyes”, “thinking cap” and, most importantly, their “quiet mouths.” With all of these things on, you are able to reference them later in class: “We are going to have to use our ‘pay attention eyes’ for this exercise since we’ve never done it before,” or “We may need to turn down the volume even more on your ‘quiet mouths’ today.”
What are some other “attention-getters” you see in your classes and what do you do to avoid them?
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