Help Your Students Reach Their Goals

As dance teachers it is important to help our students reach their goals. I have found over the years that if we aren’t actively asking our students what their individual goals are, we end up falling short for them. With that being said, I don’t think it is because teachers aren’t teaching great classes. I think it is a communication issue.

I am going to share two strategies to help your students achieve their goals. Both of these strategies help our students learn about goal setting, keep them engaged, and progressing.

SMART GOALS

Each February we set SMART Goals for each of our dance classes. We sit each class down and teach them what a SMART goal is and

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tell them what skill they will be working toward for the next six weeks. We talk about ways they can work toward achieving the skill and then ask them what three things they can do individually to make it happen.

After we have filled out our SMART Goal sheet we start working on the skill for the next six weeks in class. We encourage them to practice at home and remind them each week what the SMART goal is. This gets the class working together toward a common goal and keeps them engaged through February and March, when it is typically hard to keep the class engaged and focused.

At the end of the six weeks, we have the students perform the skill and reward them with a treat for achieving the skill and working together. If there are students that don’t quite get the skill, we have an alternative treat for effort. I find that it is so important to reward the effort along with the achievement.

When you are deciding what skill to select, make it challenging, but achievable for the whole class. If your class is mixed level, you can have a mixed level skill. For example in my Tumbling 1-2 class, some students are still working on holding their bridge with two hands, whereas others can work toward holding their bridge with one hand, so I made the goal of holding the bridge for 16 counts with either two hands or one hand. This way everyone is working together on the skill, but everyone is being challenged personally.

PATHWAY MEETINGS

In the past we have had students that want to make the high school dance team or be a cheerleader, but we are not aware that this is their dream. Our teachers are working in

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class to help students grow and learn new skills, but are not overly focused on the skills necessary to make these teams , so in turn that student does not make that team. When this has happened, the student is sad and sometimes decides to quit taking class altogether. In this situation, nobody wins.

After we experienced this a few times, I decided to make a change and get ahead of this issue so we can better serve our students. One way that we adapted is to hold annual pathway meetings with our students ages 10 and up.

Each February we send out an email to our families with a message about what the pathway meetings are along with a SIgnUp Genius link for them to sign up for a 15-20 minute time slot to meet with a teacher. When you first get started with the pathway meetings, you will want to do most of them yourself to get a feel for how they go and what you will want to ask your students. We have been doing them for many years and now have several teachers that hold them. I ask for their availability in January so we can build out the meetings for February and March.

It is enlightening to meet with the students and learn what is important to them, what their hopes and dreams are, and what their goals are for the upcoming season. It is also a great way to connect and bond with them. We have a Google Spreadsheet that has a question template, so we are asking everyone the same questions and make a separate tab for each student. Once we are done asking the questions, we have time to talk to them about something specific and give them a chance to ask us questions.

Once we are done with the meetings for the season, our team gets together and discusses what we learned and help develop plans for each child and for the different populations within our studio. We find that there are common themes among each group, making it easy to set up a plan.

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The gold for the pathway meetings comes in the follow up after they are done. Once they are done and we have met to set the plans, we then follow up with the students with a plan, exercises to help with a skill, & recommendations for classes for the upcoming season. This keeps the lines of communication open and shows our families that we care about our student’s progress and helping them reach their goals.

I always say “If you don’t know where you are going, you will never get there.” This is true for our students as well. Many of them will come to you with no idea what their goal is or where they shine in class. Some will come with a good understanding of how they are doing in class and where their strengths and weaknesses are and a few will come with a goal and a list of questions. You will see a wide variety in the meetings, but each one is rewarding. As time goes on the students get better and are more comfortable talking about their goals and asking questions, which is where a true connection happens.

It is the perfect time of year to start a plan to help your students reach their goals.

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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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