How to Tell if Your Child’s Instructor is a “Time Waster”

It is shocking how many dance instructors I have worked with like to simply run out the clock with kids rather than engage with them in meaningful dance education. I recently met a dance studio DIRECTOR who was in the process of INTERVIEWING ME who actually stated “I love to waste time.” I cannot fathom why it is that these people got into their field… especially those who are so blessed to be in a position in which they can make important decisions for an arts institution such as who to hire.

As for instructors who like to waste time, I have worked with a few and for those parents or employers out there who might pop in once in a while.. here are some tell tale signs to spot those time wasters.

  1. The instructor spends chunks of class time playing games that have nothing to do with dance. If you know that you have a good dance instructor who is utilizing class time so well that there is some extra time to play “sharks and minnows” or “duck duck goose” at the end of class or as a quick warmup then this can be just fine. But it’s a slippery slope, and if you ask your child “what did you do in dance class today?” and all they can come up with is “we played freeze tag” then you definitely have a time-waster teaching your child.
  2. The instructor is standing by the door with the speaker, acting as “DJ” rather than interacting with the kids. This can happen when a teacher has the mistaken idea that once they have taught a group of kids some choreography they’ve done their job. They will then have the students run the dance over and over again without much commentary and without moving from their spot. When this type of teacher does make commentary on the most recent run through of their dance it will be a vague accusation – something like, “you guys need to get those counts on the wave part” in an exasperated tone, before playing the music again. The most frustrating part of watching this kind of teacher work is that their attitude says “this is not worth my time” and it is clear that the class is indeed excruciatingly long for them, but if they would just engage with their students, or god forbid, do the dance with them! Then time would go by much more quickly and enjoyably so.
  3. The instructor plays freeze dance every class, for a good chunk of the duration of the class without any attempt at making it educational. This is a hard one for me because I use freeze dance a lot in my classes, especially my younger age groups. But there is a BIG difference between playing a birthday party freeze dance game in which the only goal is to win, and using this stop and start game as a structured tool to encourage improvisation. So ask yourself these questions when deciding if using freeze dance in the classroom you are associated with is ok: does the instructor encourage the children to use some dance movements that have been learned in the classroom? Does the instructor point out and praise certain movements and improvisational choices as the students move? Does the instructor change it up with new and fun parameters?  If the answer to all of those is no and the instructor is doing something you could do with your child in the living room while eating dinner on the couch and pressing stop and start with your free hand, then you’ve got yourself a time waster.

It is sad that anyone in such a rewarding profession would take their time and the time of their students for granted in this way, but just like in any field dance has it’s fair share of workers who are just waiting out the clock till pay day. If you yourself are a dance instructor, it’s possible that you are wasting time in your classroom without realizing it, or without thinking about what wasted class time means for your students and for yourself on your career path. Just like any academic field, there are surface understandings of the subject (rote memorizations of a single routine for example) and there are deeper understandings (for example, the awareness of the natural movement of the arms and legs in cross lateral motion and the ability to coordinate increasingly complicated combinations based off of that understanding). Do not sell dance short by teaching, purchasing for your child, or taking a class that does not respect the full potential of what dance has to offer.

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