Ask the Experts: Getting Parents on Board

Q: I'm tired of parents making excuses for their children about tardiness, not applying corrections and lack of motivation. How do I get parents on board with me?

A: I agree with you that parents are too quick to make excuses for their children. The message these “excuse parents" are sending their children is: “I can do what I want—my parents will protect me." Their kids end up lacking confidence to make good decisions—the confidence that comes from dealing with consequences.

I encourage dancers to take personal responsibility for their behavior. When students come to my class late or fail to apply corrections, I comment on it openly, in front of the class and often with the door open, so anyone watching or listening can hear. I am never mean or condescending, but I make sure they know I'm disappointed in their performance.

I will not speak to parents of dancers older than 13 unless the dancer is present. This protects my relationship with my students, because they don't feel that we're talking behind their backs. At my competition team meeting in October, I let my parents know that all dancers will be held accountable for their actions. I know a 10-year-old doesn't drive herself to class, but she's still responsible for being on time. Get parents on board by clearly outlining what your expectations are, why you have them and how you'll handle the situation if they aren't met.

Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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Teaching Tips
Justin Boccitto teaches a hybrid class. Photo courtesy Boccitto

Just as teachers were getting comfortable with teaching virtual classes, many studios are adding an extra challenge into the mix: in-person students learning alongside virtual students. Such hybrid classes are meant to keep class sizes down and to give students options to take class however they're comfortable.

But dividing your attention between virtual students and masked and socially distant in-person students—and giving them each a class that meets their needs—is no easy feat.

Dance Teacher asked four teachers what they've learned so far.

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Teachers Trending
All photos by Ryan Heffington

"Annnnnnnd—we're back!"

Ryan Heffington is kneeling in front of his iPhone, looking directly into the camera, smiling behind his bushy mustache. He's in his house in the desert near Joshua Tree, California, phone propped on the floor so it stays steady, his bright shorty shorts, tank top and multiple necklaces in full view. Music is already playing—imagine you're at a club—and soon he's swaying and bouncing from side to side, the beat infusing his bones.

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