Is the expense to attend a teacher training or summer seminar worth it?
Particularly when money and times are tight, dance educators wrestle with this question. It seems we find it hard to justify spending money or attention on our own development, though we would encourage it for our students. Below is my top ten list of reasons you would want to seriously consider some continuing ed for yourself this year.
1. New Classroom Tools
Teacher workshops directly provide curriculum, music, or methods for your use. As a participant in technique class, there is opportunity to experience new ways of combining steps, of structuring a class, of delivering a concept. Take notes throughout your experience, borrowing the best from your observations.
2. Remembering What It’s Like
Students feel pressure to do well, they get nervous, they are sometimes afraid to try something new, they struggle with physical or psychological challenges. The occasional reminder of what it feels like to be a student, to push oneself through challenges, to risk and take on something new will bring added depth and understanding to your teaching.
3. Physical Exercise
If you are a teacher, you probably recognize that the physical demands of instructing students is very different from actual dancing. You spend time moving but not as you would as a class participant or performer. A challenging program or class can help keep you in shape.
4. Mental Exercise
Ditto on giving your brain a workout. Teaching can become routine and repetitive. Demanding more of your brain is stimulating and refreshing.
5. Creative Input/Output
Teachers do a lot of giving. Choreography, class exercises, working with students – these things require creativity. However, consistent output without refilling the well of creativity can cause the source to dry up. And creativity does breed creativity. Sometimes even taking the opportunity to create something for your own pleasure (an art class, a writing workshop, crafting, even a choreography workshop) can replenish your reserves.
6. Improved Business
Each new experience adds credibility. Parents and students will appreciate that you’ve made an effort to improve your teaching, expand your repertoire, study and grow. The more diverse your education, the more marketable you become as a teacher. You want to be able to share what you did over summer vacation, too!
A dance-related conference or seminar offers the chance to interact with other teachers and professionals from all over the country or world. Making these contacts strengthens your ties to the dance world beyond your studio, creating opportunities for you and your students. Events in your own backyard can still add benefit. You may develop friendships or connect with those that are willing to donate, offer sponsorship, or collaborate on a project. You just never know.
If you ever feel like others in your life (husbands/wives, friends, relatives) don’t understand your passion and commitment to dance and teaching, here is a chance to be among others that get it! Not only is sharing your thoughts and ideas with these folks restorative but the affirmation you receive among comrades can sustain you through the coming year.
9. Personal Growth
Address your own need for development. Mastery and accomplishment serve to increase self-confidence in your pupils and will do the same for you. And, this could be a separate point but, your willingness to grow and learn will inspire the same in your students!
10. Staying Ahead of Change
The quote below, really says it all. New theories and practices in physiological science are changing the ways dance teachers teach. Dance training, though rooted in tradition, is a vast field – there will always be something new to learn and discover. Staying on top of your game will benefit you and your students.
“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” — Eric Hoffer, US philosopher
Though it is a great idea to set aside some funds for you and/or your teachers to attend workshops or summits, I want to emphasize that growth experiences do not have to be pricey or far away. In fact, they may not even have to be dance-related! There is much to be gained from observing teachers who specialize in other disciplines, from opening yourself to new experiences, from simply taking time to create or learn something just for you.
Do you have a reasons or benefits you’d like to add to the list?
What are some experiences you’d recommend to other teachers?
What inexpensive or even non-dance activities have informed and supported your teaching or helped you through the year?