How Do You Know You’re Ready to Start Teaching Belly Dance?
It’s a question many dancers ask when they consider the next step in their career.
Experience, training, technique and essential knowledge are obvious requirements on your checklist. But as every new teacher discovers, teaching requires so much more we wish we knew before we jumped into it.
1. Do you have enough material, ie. a curriculum for one year’s worth of classes for each level and type of class you intend to teach? Even if you teach only a beginner class, you will need to offer variety in some way to keep students coming back.
This is the “what” of teaching. You will need to know if you are going to teach primarily choreography, combinations, or technique. Of course, you are allowed to change it up as you go. But you will need to have some kind of organization, plan and progression so that students don’t get confused and feel a sense of achievement. If you have a long-term plan, you will avoid many of the problems new teachers face with burn out and the ‘honeymoon’ phase of teaching.
2. Do you have enough of a music collection to support your curriculum for each level and type of class? Again back to variety. You will need to keep student’s interest.
A good variety of music is required for any teacher’s repertoire. You will need music for practice and drills, as well as for choreography for different levels. You may also consider music for different styles of dance that you teach. Music is as important to your teaching as the moves.
3. Do you understand the needs of students at various skill levels, interests and experience? Ex. beginner, serious hobbyist, intermediate, fitness/recreational student. Knowing when and how to introduce certain skills and topics is absolutely essential in reaching your student level.
Students have different needs and interests at different levels of experience. You will also need to consider the ages and abilities of students. Most new beginner students are not going to be ready or interested in performing a full choreography of a classic Egyptian song. However, they may be interested in learning how basic moves are interpreted in such a performance.
4. How’s your fitness level? Do you have the physical and mental stamina and energy to talk, dance and be a leader for at least one hour? How about 2 or 3 hours? You will need to dance, talk, think and observe all at once for up to one hour or more. This takes practice and a higher fitness level than the average belly dance student.
Practice dancing and talking at the same time. This will go a long way to help you become confident in dancing, talking and observing at once. My personal rule is, I need to practice twice the energy level that is required for the real “gig,” ie. If I am teaching a 1-hour class, I need to be able to dance and talk for 2 hours continuously. This takes practice to do successfully and confidently.
5. How’s your patience? Do you have patience with people and with yourself, or do you get easily frustrated? Teachers need to be patient, especially when the indicators of a student’s progress are subtle. A teacher should have knowledge of the learning process and be aware that not all students will progress at the same rate, in the same way or with the same goals and motivation.
Not all students learn at the same pace. You will need to recognize when a particular student needs more time to develop the skills you are teaching, while encouraging them nonetheless.
6. Do you stay abreast of the belly dance industry and have knowledge of the business of teaching dance? As a professional in the industry, it is your job to know about products, events and resources available to you and your students.
The industry is constantly changing in some ways, yet stays the same in other ways. You will need to keep up with the new events and trends of the greater community, to be successful in an ever-evolving world.
7. Are you willing to smile, speak in public and be enthusiastic, even when you don’t feel like it? Sometimes you just want to call in sick or not go to class. Unless you are sick and contagious, you can’t just cancel class anytime you feel bad.
Some days you just want to come home from world, have a glass of wine and curl up with your cat. When you teach others, you have an additional responsibility to fulfill your role. It is job just like any other, though probably more fun than any other.
8. Are you organized and reliable? Can people count on you to show up on time and be professional? Students rely on you and pay you to teach them. This is your job. Be there and do your job well. Remember, it’s fun!
Even in a fun profession, there is professionalism and responsibility. We may become close with our students and we tend to blur the lines between teacher and friend. Regardless, you are a professional and need to conduct your classes as such.
9. Are you willing to give? Even when you really need nurturing yourself? As a teacher, you must be willing to give of yourself. Encouraging others is a big part of the job, even when what you need most is a hug from a friend. Please do not burden students with your problems. That’s what #10 is for.
Students are there to get away from the stresses of life, get exercises, do something fun and important for themselves. You will need to be there for them. I have found that the benefits of being the student or the teacher are mutual.
10. Do you have a support system, social life or a stress outlet outside of belly dance? Because teachers need encouragement and advice too, you must find an outlet that is just for you and your needs, so that you are not tempted to share inappropriately with your students.
If you feel good about your answers, you’re on your way. If you’re dedicated to this vocation, ready to learn on the job and you’re willing to make a lot of mistakes (at least in the first few years) AND learn from them, I can almost guarantee that you will be a successful belly dance teacher. Keep it up and you will have a long career and many happy students.
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