Since returning to classes after winter break, one class in particular has been especially challenging. As I was planning our second class back, I needed to remind myself of some important key points when it comes to teaching the young developing child. I wrote these reminders on a post-it note and stuck it to my computer as I taught that night. When I posted a picture of this list on my social media pages, it really resonated with people. With all the messages I received, I wanted to dive a little deeper into my notes. Perhaps these are some reminders that will help you this week. If not, put them in your back pocket. We can always have more strategies in our teacher toolbox!
Reminder #1: Solution > Stress
The day before my class, I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a post from my good friend, Katrena Cohea from Different Drummer Dance. The quote was “You can choose stress or you can choose a solution.” You can read her full post here. It was a great reminder to focus on a solution rather than focus on the stress about heading back into the challenging class.
Reminder #2: Connect Before Correct
This is a Positive Discipline tool I first read about in a parenting blog years ago. Dr. Jane Nelson shares the brain science that “children learn (grow, feel safe, thrive) best when they feel connection” read more here. Connect Before Correct is my reminder that constantly correcting my students will not change their behavior. I must first connect with them.
Reminder #3: Proactive Not Reactive
Classroom Management is about having systems and procedures in place to avoid off-task behavior in the first place. This is how we become proactive. We anticipate everything that could happen and put a system in place to (hopefully) avoid it from happening.
Reminder #3: Don’t Say Don’t
Let’s play a game… Don’t think about a hot cup of coffee…Whatcha thinking about? Coffee? 🙂 Our brains can’t process the word don’t. We simply think about the word that comes after don’t. So, when you tell a young child “don’t run!” they hear “run!”. When you tell them “don’t throw your poly spot” they hear “throw your poly spot”. Don’t Say Don’t is my reminder to say what I DO want, not what I don’t want. “Don’t run” becomes “quiet tip toes”. “Don’t throw your poly spot” becomes “sit on your poly spot”.
Reminder #4: Teach Not Punish
Discipline comes from the word disciple, meaning student. Whenever a student isn’t behaving the way I expect them to in class it’s either because my expectations are not developmentally appropriate or because that child is lacking a foundational skill needed to do what is being asked of them. Teach Not Punish is my reminder that young children need the foundational skills for learning and growing FIRST. This is why you will always hear me say “teach the developing child first, dancer second.”
Reminder #5: 10 Seconds
It can take 10 seconds (or more) for a young child to respond to a request. 10 Seconds is my reminder to slow down and give them time to process what is being asked of them.
Setting realistic expectations, having a toolbox full of strategies, and always remembering to teach the developing child first, dancer second, will get us through these challenging classes! I promise. Write these reminders down and remember that these little brains and bodies need movement. We can do this!
Andrea Trench is dedicated to helping dance teachers create and deliver content that is research-based and developmentally appropriate for children under the age of 6. Her primary focus is classroom management, conceptual teaching, and foundational movement skill development in early childhood dance education. In addition, Andrea uses her 12 years of experience as a partner in a dance studio to inspire, equip, and empower educators.