Teaching Tips

Ask the Experts: How Do I Better Include Students With Disabilities in My K–12 Class?

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Q: How do you approach a K–12 class when one of your students has a disability?

A: Growing up watching my deaf sister get left out of conversations made me sensitive to ensuring everyone in my classroom feels included. If you have a student who is disabled, you'll need to put in a little extra effort to make sure they're a full part of your class. But it's worth it, and it will benefit all of your students.

With a hard-of-hearing or deaf student who reads lips, for instance, it's important that they can always see your face. Don't speak too fast, and enunciate clearly. Clear instructions are great for all learners. If you are demonstrating, don't talk and demo at the same time. The deaf student won't be able to see your face if you're dancing. When I taught tap to the dance group at Gallaudet University (a private university for the education of the deaf and hard of hearing), I made a point of using my hands to demonstrate what my feet were doing. I always kept my hands near my face, making it easier for the dancers to take in both my lips and my hands simultaneously.

Music
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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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