Teaching Tips

Ask the Experts: Will Teaching After School Help Me Find a K–12 Job?

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Q: Is teaching for an after-school program a good way to find a job in K–12?


A: If you're trying to get into teaching at a K–12 school, teaching in after-school programs is a possible way to get your foot in the door. You will get to know some of the decision-makers and become a familiar face. If you have the appropriate credentials and are ready, you can be at the front of the line when something opens up. I was lucky enough to have that happen to me, and 20 years later I am still at my school, leading the program I built.

That said, teaching in an after-school program at a K–12 school is not necessarily the same thing as teaching during the school day. In fact, it can be significantly more challenging. For one, you don't have the same authority to establish classroom order. I'm an advocate of positive reinforcement, but there are times that you need to have the weight of discipline options, like sending a student to the principal's office, to keep things moving. Beyond discipline, kids are just plain tired after 3 pm. In terms of our natural circadian rhythms, this is generally the time of day human bodies want a nap (no matter the age). You have to consider that kids have most likely been following directions all day and need some truly free time. A focused mental task isn't always what is needed.

Still, there are so many teachers who have successful after-school programs precisely because they offer something that is not the same as at school. Even if the school does have dance, this is a chance to offer something new. A special dance company for students to create their own choreography, or discover a technique that they don't get during the day, will catch the dedicated students. When you get students who choose to be in your class, you might find it easier to manage behavior, as well.

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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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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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