Around this time of year, many dance schools are preparing for parent Observation Week. It’s a very special time for the students and their parents, but it can be a time of high stress and intimidation for us teachers. Don’t you fret! Here are some tips to help you teachers not only survive observation week, but to close out the week with a feeling of accomplishment and professionalism.
Prepare the Students
Sometimes we forget that a huge part of these kids’ training is performing! Having successful and productive classes is wonderful, but don’t be surprised when recital comes around and your students don’t know how to perform. They need to be taught how to retain choreography as part of their classroom experience. Tell them several weeks in advance that the parents are going to be coming soon, that they will be watching us take class, and that we will be performing something special for them. The more notice you give them, the better.
Inform the Parents
This is a no-brainer, but in some situations, or when the school is small, it may need to be you who sends out the email or makes sure that each of your parents gets a letter informing them about Observation Day. Many times, the office staff takes care of all of that communication, but a friendly verbal reminder doesn’t hurt, even when it is the office’s responsibility to communicate. I like to tell them as class is letting out and the parents are picking up. I tell them at two weeks and then again the week before Observation Week.
Prepare Something Special to Show Parents
I usually use the first six weeks of the term to teach my students a short choreography for show on Observation Day. Don’t feel like you have to do anything elaborate; it can even be one of the enchainements from the curriculum books. Just make a short dance that they can show their parents that includes steps that they have learned over the past six weeks. They will learn how to perform and memorize steps this way, plus it’s always fun to show moms and dads!
Create Handouts for Parents to Follow Along
Many schools post their curriculum on a special information board outside the classroom. This is a wonderful idea that allows the parents to follow along with what you are teaching them throughout each quarter. It is also a great resource to use during Observation Day. Make handouts of your lesson plan for the day. Underneath each exercise, write a short description of the exercise and what skills they will be learning while doing it. (Ex.: While doing “Turtles”, we are learning to contract and release as well as building strength in our abdominal muscles.) Parents will love being in the know!
Relax, and Be You!
I always make it a point to never let this time of year get to me. I am a professional dance instructor, and I will not change my methods just because the parents are watching. Have some integrity during Observation Week, and be the same teacher you are when the parents are not watching. Don’t allow your students to get away with things just because we have an audience. Take a deep breath, do what you know you can do, and enjoy yourself!
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