Dance kids have a tough life. They put themselves out there constantly…in competitions, exams, conventions, and even in the studio. Every step a dancer takes, every move a dancer makes they are critiqued, corrected, and often judged. The way they react to these corrections can make an enormous difference to their success, development, and their happiness. Helping your dancer to get the most out of their corrections can have a huge impact on their progress and success.
In my experience as a teacher students generally fall into 4 categories when it comes to taking correction and much of it has to do with their mindset which you can read about here.
- The sponge. – this kind of student is in full growth mindset mode. They live for the correction. They lock onto you, almost visibly strain to hear what you are saying, carefully process your words, try the correction out immediately and often ask for feedback. They see corrections as an opportunity for growth and interpret the teacher’s attention in a positive way. The best part about this type of student is they then retain the correction and try to fix the correction by themselves for the rest of that class and beyond. Even better, this kind of student listens to other people’s corrections and tries to apply them too. The sponge is a dream student who progresses at an accelerated rate. The student and teacher are able to develop a great working relationship. The teacher will feel motivated to provide more corrections and the student will flourish.
- The deflector – the deflector is in full fixed mindset mode. They perceive corrections as criticism. They don’t see them as the sponge does, a chance to grow and a valuable piece of the teacher’s attention. The deflector feels threatened by correction and will often make an excuse “oh yes, I hurt my toe today, that’s why”, and may even tell the teacher that they already know what they are saying or imply that their mistake was a one-off, that they would normally do it the right way. This kind of student may progress more slowly than the sponge for a number of reasons. First of all, it is uncomfortable for the teacher to correct a student like this as the student appears offended and doesn’t welcome the comment. If the deflection is purely face-saving, the student may still be able to take the correction and work on it, but if the student is perceiving the correction through a fixed mindset, progress will be limited.
- The social aloof – there are some students whose motivation to save face and look cool in front of other students is stronger than their desire to improve their dancing. If another student is being corrected, the social aloof will spend the time trying to engage with other students rather than in the classroom process. The social aloof is not focused on corrections. They receive them, they may apply them, they may not. Their progress will be sporadic depending on how much they choose to engage and a student/teacher collaborative learning environment as opposed to engaging in the ‘social side’ of dance class.
- The disengaged- the disengaged student is, as the name suggests, not engaged in the classroom process. This is certainly not always the fault of the student. Many times, a teacher just needs to unlock the key to that particular student – find a way to motivate them. Sometimes, corrections aren’t phrased in a way that children can understand them. Sometimes students are disengaged because they just don’t want to be there or maybe their crazy dance mum is a teensy tiny bit more invested in the whole dancing world than they themselves are. This kind of student does not show interest in taking correction, they aren’t offended by them but they aren’t motivated to do anything about them either. The progress made by the disengaged will always be limited.
A good teacher will try to employ strategies to communicate with all types of personalities. However, the fact remains, that studio time is limited and class numbers are sometimes large. If you divide the number of students into the class time, you will quickly appreciate that the time for individualized attention is limited and that the child who is willing to take correction, and who sees them as a great thing, will always be ahead of the game. It is also worth noting that kids are never set in stone. I’ve seen the greatest sponge, turn straight into a social aloof given a change in classroom dynamic or the disengaged suddenly turn into a model student given the right set of circumstances.
So, what can we as crazy dance mums do to turn our children into sponges, to help them benefit from corrections and get the most out of their classes?
Talk to your child about corrections and what they mean, explain what a gift they are. When you pick them up from dance class, instead of simply asking how the class was, ask them about any corrections they received. Ask them to explain them to you and ask whether they managed to apply the correction or whether it might take a bit longer. This is such a valuable conversation as it also helps reinforce the correction in their mind. It is sometimes hard for kids to get the idea of a correction as being a good thing as so often it is presented in the opposite way. Working with mindsets will help this but talking about corrections in a positive way is also really helpful.
Even better than talking about corrections is writing them down. If you can help your dancer to get into the habit of writing down their corrections and reviewing them, they will gain one of the most valuable dance skills, the ability to self-evaluate. You can download this great correction checklist below and print out as many copies as you need. After each class, have your dancer record their corrections. They can check these before the next class and then towards the end of the week, evaluate what they have achieved and what they can continue to work on. This kind of exercise should become routine and will help set them up to gain so much more from their classes. Their improvement will be dramatic.
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At the end of the day, the important thing to remember is this. Teachers, correct students to help them to improve. The more they correct, the more potential they see for improvement. This is occasionally interpreted by the student as the teacher picking on them or singling them out unfairly. Nothing could be further from the truth. The more corrections, the better! Teachers can’t correct everything at once, so they will start working on a few key things. As the student applies the correction, the teacher will move onto the next area and so the student’s technique will begin to refine further. However, if the correction is not applied, the teacher cannot move on and progress will stall. It is important to remember, that learning is a process and as much as a student may try to apply a certain correction, sometimes it just takes time and sometimes developmental milestones need to be reached. Luckily, what really matters to a teacher that they can see a student really trying to apply their corrections. A teacher will always have time for a student who is working hard and trying to apply their corrections. Here is a great article about common corrections which may give you some more insight into the types of things your dancer might be talking about.