Everything seems easier when the sun is shining. The birds are chirping, and there’s a spring in your step. Soon enough, summer slowly drifts away, and we find ourselves in the thick of winter. The days are dark and short, and our motivation can begin to wane. Winter can often signal the middle of the dance year, which adds some extra challenges – the enthusiasm and goal setting of a new year are all but forgotten, and the thrill and excitement of the Annual Performance or recital still seems far off in the distance.
Yes, this is the mid-year slump!
You can find yourself in a mid-year slump – motivation is low, and energy levels even lower. How, as a teacher, can you coach your students through these times when motivation is low and energy levels even lower? Here are five possible solutions, some which are quicker and easier than others. Let’s start with the most difficult one first!
#1. Work on yourself.
The first place to start is with you. Ask yourself what energy are you bringing to the room? Students mimic what they see. If you appear tired and unenthusiastic, it’s most likely this will be mirrored back to you. Aim to get enough sleep, maintain some kind of exercise outside the studio to help with your energy levels, and eat foods that will help boost your energy and mind. If you enter the studio looking like you want to be there, this will most definitely impact your students. Dare I say, sometimes we need to fake it! After all, teachers are humans, too, and have bad days or may just not be “feeling it”. These times, we need to act as the professionals we are and rise up and set the tone. As I walk through the door each time, no matter how I am feeling on the inside, I make a promise to myself to show up fully. In fact, it’s on these days the students and I often leave feeling positive and happy. Dance, after all, is one of the most positive ways to lift our mood, if we just give it permission!
#2. Lift the mood.
Speaking of lifting the mood, maybe take a break from the seriousness of it all, even just for 10 minutes. Even if you have the pressure of competitions or exams breathing down your neck, there is always time for a little fun, and sometimes I feel teachers can lose perspective and forget that dance should also be enjoyable. The solution could be as simple as letting the students have a day free from uniform or using different music.
#3. Motivate from within.
The truth is even as teachers, we can’t make someone do something. We can’t make them feel motivated if they are not. A good teacher will work to encourage motivation from within – that is internal motivation. Reminding students that they have the power to choose how they show up can be helpful. Remind them that each lesson is a gift and an opportunity and to set a goal or an outcome for that lesson. Long-term goals are great, but in this age of instant gratification, focusing on the here and now can be powerful. What is your focus going to be in this lesson? What one thing will you do better at the end of today? If you have a whiteboard or somewhere you can record these each week, it can be even more motivating to look back and see that small steps to success have been achieved each lesson. After all, progress is the sum of many small parts daily. Instil this mindset in your students, and you will serve them well.
#4. Use technology.
Vary your traditional teaching methods and incorporate technology into the studio, if you don’t already. Particularly useful for the visual learners, a quick look at a YouTube video or videoing the students themselves followed by them critiquing themselves can be a way to vary the routine of class. This can be helpful when you find yourself repeating the same correction over and over again. This to me is always an indication that perhaps the problem is not with the learner but with how I am sharing the information. If I have been simply repeating the same correction with no change, maybe it will make more sense if the dancers watch themselves doing the exercise or routine, and observing what areas they feel need improving. Find other ways to share the same information, and it not only opens up new opportunities for learning but also varies the routine that sometimes can become stifling.
#5. Give homework.
Who is your dance hero? This is such a great question to ask when you see motivation waning. Fill the walls with pictures of the students’ dance heroes. If they don’t have one, get them to research one. When I say heroes, I don’t mean who is currently the most Instafamous 13-year-old? No, I’m talking about professional dancers who have worked hard to achieve their lifelong dreams. I make it my business to ensure that all my young classical ballet students know the names of Margot Fonteyn, Lucinda Dunn and Darcy Bussell – these are mydance heroes. Suggest a list of dance greats across the genres you teach and ask them to research one each. Each student needs to print a photo and provide a couple of sentences as to why that dancer is inspiring. Place them around the walls to remind students that greatness exists and is not out of reach, but sometimes has to be fought for.
By Jane Grech of Jane Grech Dance Centre.
Jane Grech is the Founder and Director of JG Creative, a South Australian company which operates Jane Grech Dance Centre, Pirouettes Dancewear and Adelaide Institute of Vocational Dance. An empowering leader, Jane’s businesses thrive from the power of a positive culture by design. Working with vision, her teams are a united and determined force. By embracing and enjoying challenges and celebrating success through having fun, her people are not only personally and professionally fulfilled, but her businesses greatest strength.
Jane is the creator and founder of DanceStep, a unique training program that works in partnership with dance schools around the world to offer Assistant Teacher Training programs. Through her work Jane is empowering studio owners to grow young leaders who give back to their studio communities.
Jane is an author and speaker on the topics of dance education, entrepreneurship and leadership. Passionate about encouraging, supporting and inspiring others Jane writes articles for Dance Informa Magazine and at her own blog, Dance Studio Success. Previous speaking engagements include Dance Teachers Unite, Come Together Dance Teachers Conference, ‘Exchange’ and Victorian Dance Festival. Jane shares her experiences with dance studio owners from around the world through her work as a Leadership and Studio Growth Coach with Dance Studio Owners Association.
Jane works part time in an effort to successfully navigate the challenges of combining a career with her greatest role, that of mum to Alana, Caitlin and Liam and wife to Brian.