September brings a wave of excitement as both school and extracurricular activities start up afresh. As dance teachers, you’re dealing with the influx of students as well as the administrative requirements that the beginning of term brings. Knowing you’ll need help to do it all successfully makes September a perfect time to focus on the role of assistants in your dance studio.
Some teachers rely on assistants for the “simpler” tasks of teaching: helping younger students change from street shoes to dance shoes, accompanying students to the washroom and taking attendance. Other teachers see their assistants as extensions of themselves, individuals who will not only help demonstrate exercises correctly but will also help students listen and learn. In either case, it’s important to acknowledge that assistants are the teachers of tomorrow. With a little effort and communication, the relationship can be beneficial for both parties.
When working with assistants, it’s helpful to remember that they are often young and working in this capacity to pay for their own dance lessons. To ensure that you and your assistant are on the same page, consider holding a regular “assistants-only” lesson, with your first meeting before a new term of classes begins. During this time you can help them work on their demonstrating and assisting skills. You can also discuss exactly what you expect of your assistants in the studio. Whether you want them to focus on keeping younger students engaged or giving hands-on corrections, be clear. It’s important to help your assistant build his or her confidence in the studio. Taking the time in advance to communicate your expectations and ensure agreement can help prevent misunderstandings down the line.
A regular assistants-only lesson is also a chance for you to get to know each other as people, and for them to gain familiarity with your teaching style. As you work together and their abilities increase, you can gradually add new tasks.
Perhaps you yourself started as an assistant and can remember what that experience was like. Assistants are keen to learn, just as your students are. It is extremely worthwhile to work privately with them in addition to having them join you in classes. Assistants, above all else, are there to help you make your classes run more smoothly, so the more communication you exchange about how to do this, the better the experience will be for you both.