Every dance teacher, at one time or another, has taught that one kid. Whether it’s a one-time occurrence, or a weekly problem, it never ceases to amaze me how one child can disrupt the flow of an entire dance class. This little disruption can take many forms.
- Fountain of tears. I think it’s safe to say that a 5-yr-old little girl may be slightly more emotional than the average, fully-grown individual. The smallest things can produce an everlasting fountain of tears.
- Chatty Cathy. I was this kid. Some children find it difficult to implement the “zippy lippies” required in dance class.
- Susie Space Cadet. This one’s my favorite. Every once in a while (all the time), there’s one kid who simply cannot be bothered by what’s going on in dance class. Her mind is elsewhere, thinking about unicorns and pizza. Last night, one of my students informed me that this place is called “la la land.”
Whether the child is misbehaving, or just having a bad day, there are two strategies I’ve found successful in dealing with the situation.
Teacher’s helper – Ask the child to be your partner for part (or all) of the class. Bring the child to the front of the room and inform her that she is your very special helper. I’ve seen this strategy used a dozen times by every dance teacher I know. By doing this, the child does not feel punished or embarrassed. This kind of positive reinforcement helps the student feels important and loved.
Take a break – There comes a point when children need to know that their behavior is not appropriate for dance class. Talking, crying, and daydreaming all have their place. Dance class is not that place. When gentle reminders don’t work, it’s time for the student to sit out of class. For the crazies and the emotional wrecks, my policy is: if you won’t dance, don’t dance. Sometimes this break is a 5-minute time out. Sometimes it’s the whole class. I call this “taking a break” because it is not a punishment. I make sure to tell them this. It’s just a reminder that dance class is a place for dancing, not playing.
No method is foolproof. Every situation is different. Every teacher has his or her own ways of dealing with that one kid. These are mine.