Empowering Dance Students

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As dance teachers, we have the unique privilege and responsibility to mold not just skilled dancers but also resilient individuals who carry the love of dance throughout their lives. With over 35 years of experience in teaching dance and managing Forte Arts Center for 31 years, my journey has taught me the profound impact of nurturing the spirit of our students alongside their technical skills. In the last decade, my focus has shifted towards empowering other dance teachers to realize their fullest potential. It is within our grasp to foster an environment that not only perfects dance techniques but also builds character and resilience in our students. This is where the EAR (Encourage, Acknowledge, Recognize) approach becomes pivotal.

Why EAR Matters
Dance, as an art form, is demanding. Students often face challenges in mastering
movements, understanding rhythms, and expressing emotions. Recognition of their efforts is as crucial as correcting their steps. It fosters a positive learning environment, boosts self-esteem, and cultivates a sense of belonging. Encouragement, acknowledgment, and recognition serve as key pillars in building stronger connections with students, enhancing their learning experience, and retaining their passion for dance.

Encouraging Effort (E)

Specific Compliments: Offer specific compliments to highlight what the student did well, making the praise more meaningful and impactful.

Goal Setting: Assist students in setting achievable goals and celebrate these
milestones to teach the value of perseverance. Throughout the year we set specific individual goals as well as class goals to encourage our students and keep them engaged.

Constructive Feedback Sandwich: Package corrective feedback between positive comments to keep students motivated and open to improvement.

Every Student Matters: Encourage each student and meet them where they are. Encourage each one no matter what their skill level is. When you show you care and encourage them, they will believe in themselves, work harder, feel more confident, and in turn, be a happier child.

Acknowledging Progress (A)

Student of the Month: Implement a program to spotlight students based on effort or improvement, setting a positive example for the entire class.

Showcase Progress: Use videos to visually demonstrate students' improvement, providing tangible evidence of their hard work.

Reward Buttons: Acknowledge progress, hard work, good character by rewarding
students with buttons.

Recognizing Achievements (R)

Effort Stars/Stickers: Use a board to visually reward effort through stars or stickers, emphasizing the importance of hard work.

Personalized Notes: Write notes to students highlighting their specific efforts or improvements, making the recognition feel personal and significant. I like to give out High Five cards with a special note recognizing achievement and effort.

End-of-Year Awards: Create unique awards that recognize various qualities like
resilience or creativity, ensuring every student feels valued.

Perfect Attendance Button: Recognize good attendance and offer a reward. I started recognizing perfect attendance every 6 weeks. This is something that is achievable for students. It is a way to recognize and reward them and inspires other students to work toward this goal. I like to give them a button and take a picture of them with our Perfect Attendance for 6-weeks sign.

Implementing the EAR approach enriches our teaching and our students' learning
experiences. By focusing on Encouragement, Acknowledgment, and Recognition, we cultivate an environment where students not only strive for technical excellence but also develop a lifelong passion for dance. This approach reinforces their belief in themselves, making them more receptive to learning and resilient in facing challenges.

In conclusion, as dance teachers, our role extends beyond the studio. By embracing the EAR method, we can empower our students to reach their highest potential, fostering not just outstanding dancers but also confident and determined individuals. Let us commit to being educators who nurture the heart and soul of our students, ensuring they feel seen, valued, and motivated to pursue their passion for dance with enthusiasm and resilience.

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Pam Simpson is the founder, president, and driving force behind Forte Arts Center, which was established in Morris, Illinois in 1993. In addition to building her business from a small, one room studio to a large, multi-location organization that offers dance, tumbling and cheer programs as well as private music lessons, Pam is a leading force in the realm of small business ownership in the dance and tumbling industries as she travels all over the country speaking to and educating for large organizations such as Rhee Gold Company, Dance Teacher Summit, and More Than Just Great Dancing. When not working on her businesses, Pam enjoys spending time with her family and visiting her daughter, who is a performer at Walt Disney World.

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