Teaching Tips

Ask the Experts: How Do I Move Into Teaching in K–12?


Q: I've taught in the private sector for years and want to move into K–12. How can I do it?

A: Most public-school systems require a certification or license to be on faculty. If you'd like to work in the public-school system but don't have the necessary license, you can become a teaching artist at a school. This means you are booked to teach for a specified duration as a specialist. I can attest to this being a good way to begin—it's how I got my start.

In New York City there are arts education organizations that contract with public schools to provide residencies for teaching artists. These organizations are cleared by the Department of Education and vet artists for the schools. If you don't have these in your area, you'll need to look into other ways to approach your school system. This could be as easy as reaching out to administrations to see if they have some discretionary funds for special projects.

If this is a long-term career focus for you, I would recommend taking some courses on pedagogy. A master's degree in dance education would certainly prepare you to pass the exams required for your teaching certification, but there are other professional development opportunities to get you started before fully committing. The Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y in New York City (where I teach) has great programs both during the year and in the summer. Luna Dance Institute in Berkeley, California, is a good option for West Coast teachers, or if you want to learn online, I recommend the NDEO Online Professional Development Institute.

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Photo by Yvonne M. Portra, courtesy Faulkner

It's a Wednesday in May, and 14 Stanford University advanced modern ­dance students are logged on to Zoom, each practicing a socially distanced duet with an imaginary person. "Think about the quality of their personality and the type of duet you might have," says their instructor Katie Faulkner, "but also their surface area and how you'd relate to them in space." Amid dorm rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and backyards, the dancers make do with cramped quarters and dodge furniture as they twist, curve, stretch and intertwine with their imaginary partners.

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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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