For my college club out in Pennsylvania, I have written a rough-draft for a set of guidelines for being an instructor. This is mainly for new instructors to teaching, but it also functions as a personal checklist for experienced instructors. My goal when writing this was to only take up a page, yet still cover the key points for a good swing dance lesson. If you like it feel free to use/edit it for your club/organization. In addition please post any feedback you may have!
Expectations for a Swing Dance Instructor:
- Show Up On Time: It looks unprofessional to show up late to your own lesson. If you are going to be or are running late please inform an officer, preferably one in charge of setup.
- Bring Your Own Music & Have Students Dance to It: Each person has different expectations of what is a ‘fast’ or ‘slow’ song is and most likely has a different repertoire of music then you do. Ensure you have the right tunes for the class you designed, by having them on you. In addition having students dance to music in class prepares them for the realistic situation of dancing socially, instead of with you counting/scatting.
- Prepare For Your Lessons Beforehand: Unless if this is material you have taught before with this same person, meet up beforehand to coordinate a lesson plan. This especially is true for teaching a series. Doing this prevents possible miscommunication between teaching partners in the middle of a lesson.
- Don’t Argue With Your Teaching Partner: Sometimes during a lesson you find out that you teaching partner and you learned something differently. Compromise and sort it afterwards or work it out calmly in front of the class, but maintain a positive learning environment.
- Introduce Yourself at the Beginning of the Lesson: Beginning of the class is a good time to introduce yourself, set ground rules (especially if it’s a large class) and state your expectations for what the class will cover.
- When Talking Project Your Voice Clearly and Don’t Look Down: Students tend to learn better when they can hear what their instructor is saying. Mumbling, looking down or talking too fast makes it it difficult for students to hear. In addition students may interpret it as you are nervous and are unconfident in what you are doing.
- Balance Out Time For Explanations, Demonstrations, and Practice: A good lesson has a balance of all of these elements. Ever have a lesson that the teacher seemed to just talk the entire time? Don’t be that instructor.
- Rotate Often: We are teaching a social dance so we should have students dance socially. Whether if you are in a circle or lines have students rotate. For a circle it helps people try things with different partners. For lines it helps students in the back have a better view of the instructor. This rule goes double for classes with lead/follow imbalance.
- Encourage Students to Ask Questions: Often students have questions that will help others in the class if answered. Fostering a positive environment where they are not shy about asking questions makes the class feel like a place that one can get involved in the learning process.
- At End of Lesson Review Material, Motivate Students and Thank the Class: Review material so students can remember things from the beginning of your lesson. Since the whole point of lessons is preparation to dance encourage or even have a call to action for your students to put what you taught them to use. Lastly thank your class because they took time out of their daily schedules to attend your class.