Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New teacher woes

Our new teacher is more than new to us: she's just plain new. She's very eager, and really, really excited to be teaching dance as her full-time gig. And therein lies the rub.

Bear in mind that I've had a lot of experience with teachers, especially new teachers. My parents were university profs who taught education. This is probably why I went into engineering, but I haven't escaped totally, as one of my job functions involves teaching techie stuff to other engineers in formal classroom settings. One training coordinator remarked that she'd never met an instructor who was more excited to teach the various uses of the proc file system than I was. So grant that I have some insight into what it's like to teach, especially teaching a subject your passionate about.

So back our new ballet teacher. She doesn't seem focused on teaching class. It seems more like we're a group of friends gathering to talk about ballet than a formal class. Ideas flit into her head and she talks about them, often with her hand on the button to start the music for an exercise.

She has yet to start a class on time. Admittedly, I'm about the only one who has arrived on time, and she's been present when I walked in, but the first 10 minutes are taken up with chatter. Yes, I can nudge her into starting class, but I don't want to be in charge of this class. Once we do get started, she talks endlessly about what we're going to do. She's very excited about some mnemonics her teachers taught her -- such as "eggbeater legs" as a way to remember to constantly work the buttocks and legs to maximize turnout in all positions -- but her explanations are too lengthy and too repetitive. I'm even hesitant to ask her to explain the transition from one step to another, because the answer will go on and on long after my particular question has been addressed.

Of course, no one else says anything. They just look at me and roll their eyes. Last night I think we spent half the time just waiting for her. Near the end of class I decided I had to talk with her. After class I spoke to her, hopefully in a way that her boss wouldn't overhear. I told her that when I teach, sometimes I find myself so excited to be interacting with others about a topic I'm passionate about that I babble a bit. But the students aren't there to hear me babble excitedly, they're there to learn the subject, and I have to work restrain myself. I told her that she seemed to be doing the same, and it would be good to have less talk and more dance.

She kept a smile on her face, but it was the smile of someone who'd just had her balloon popped. I just hated doing that to her, but it needed to be done. If we're lucky she'll think about it, say "he's right", and focus on teaching during class time, and save the excited babble for a more appropriate time.


  1. Poor thing. I can certainly sympathize with the challenges of being a new teacher, though generally my challenge was to get my students to stop babbling, not the other way around! You said she's rather young, right? I wonder what other ages she teaches. If your class is the only (or one of the few) adult classes she teaches she may not realize that teaching adults requires a different approach from teaching kids. Or maybe she does realize it and feels awkward (especially if she's younger than most of the students in this class) and the babbling is a manifestation of her insecurities? Not sure. Hope your little chat gave her something to consider rather than bursting her bubble.

  2. I'd say she's in her mid-20s; young enough that she's still finishing up her state teacher's certificate.

    I think she's mostly teaching kids at this point, although she's assisting (or at least attending) the adult ballroom classes this place offers. I think she's just so excited about the possibilities that she wants to share with adults who can appreciate what she's thinking. That's great, and it'd probably be a lot of fun in a social environment, but when class is only 60 minutes and we're paying for each class, it gets annoying to be standing around. I want to walk out sweating and exhausted, not annoyed.

    I'm going to walk in this evening with a big smile and the assumption that it's going to be great and hope she's taken my words to heart. Otherwise I'm worried there won't be a class too much longer.

  3. Good for you for giving her some feedback. I hope it works out!


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