Welcome to my blog! My goal is to help you learn the tools of the belly dance teaching trade, and get the training and support you need to be the best teacher you can be.
For the first post, I’ve chosen a topic that will help both new and experienced teachers. Let’s talk about what makes a successful belly dance teacher.
Do you ever wonder why some teachers are more successful than others? Do you look at your successful colleagues with envy? What is so special about their classes? Are they better dancers than you? Do they have more experience or are more popular? Maybe. Maybe not. While good dancing, experience and being a positive force in the community are all relevant, there are likely other factors that contribute to one’s success (or not) as a respected belly dance teacher.
Some things come naturally to some people than others. Most of us, who enjoy any measure of success, have had to work very hard and intentionally, to overcome our obstacles and challenges. You can do it too!
After years of networking and working with many teachers in different fields, I have observed that the most successful teachers, regardless of caliber, experience or location, share the same qualities and high standards.
- Confidence – A successful teacher has confidence in himself or herself and believes in what her or she is doing. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re going to have a tough time convincing students that you are worth their time and money. We all have our insecurities. Don’t let your perceived or actual shortcomings hold you back from pursuing your dreams and aspirations. You are expected to learn along the way and fill your gaps of knowledge with continuing education. If you are teaching now or aspire to teach in the future, you likely feel you have something of value to offer. That is all you need to begin building your confidence. Everyone has to start somewhere.
- A Defining Dance Story – A successful dance teacher is able to define and articulate his or her dance in a way that clearly connects to her background and training. Your dance style and philosophy are shaped and influenced by your teachers and personal history. Defining your dance is a culmination of the journey you have taken as a student, then as an artist and finally, a teacher. Even if you experienced bumps on the road, be respectful and proud of your journey. It is yours and yours alone. Define your dance by making it the story of that unique journey. Everyone loves a good story, especially if they can relate to it.
- Good Clean Marketing Materials – I know what you’re thinking. It’s probably the same thing I’m thinking, “Aaaargh, I hate sales pitches!” or “I’m not good at promoting myself” or my favorite, “I don’t have the money for that.” I am not even going to address advertising or marketing strategies. I’m just talking about having a nice package that is attractive, organized and informational, and that doesn’t always mean expensive. A successful teacher has a website with nice pictures, complete information about classes, including city, state, specific location and a registration function.This might seem obvious, but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve visited a teacher’s website, and I can’t even find in what state she teaches. Or the pictures are fuzzy, irrelevant or not representative of the dancer or the dance. You don’t need a slick high-end website. A simple website is fine; information and visual appeal is essential. Include your Dance Story, and a few good quality photos in costume (please, no porno faces or playboy lounge poses), and one or two in teaching attire. Unless you’ve reached the pinnacle of your teaching career, don’t have anything to share, or don’t have any future dance aspirations, you need a website.
- Organized – Successful teachers plan ahead, often with a class syllabus and lesson plans. They provide handouts or make them available online. They present teaching material in a logical manner and pay attention to the clock. They have policies and guidelines that they share with their students. They plan special events, they pay attention to details and they are always thinking two to four steps ahead. While improvisation and flexibility are needed too, organization is the glue that holds a program together and makes students feel like they are in good hands. If you’re naturally an organized person, this quality will really help you get far in your career. Capitalize on it every chance you get and demonstrate it in your marketing materials. If organization is challenging for you, it’s not the end of your career. But you should definitely try to improve in this area.
- Flexible – Successful teachers are flexible. No, not that way. They are able to adapt to special circumstances. This is especially important, because we work in a field that is supposed to bring joy and fun. While we need our rules and policies to stay in business and to create a safe and enjoyable experience for all of our students, it is important to distinguish the times when we need to be sensitive to their individual needs, especially in extenuating circumstances. I’m not going to tell you what these circumstances should be. You have to discover for yourself what those circumstances are in which you are OK bending the rules, and to what extent. Be fair and consistent in your reasoning for allowing exceptions, but don’t make it habit to always bend the rules. Otherwise, what good are they?
- Cares About Students – A successfully belly dance teacher genuinely cares about her students. She wants her students to succeed. She shares her knowledge generously, encourages questions and offers praise. She is honest in her critique, but does so in a manner that is respectful, thoughtful and helpful. A successful teacher listens to her students and cares about their thoughts and opinions, even when she does not agree. If you only care about what teaching can do for you or your career, you will probably not be a happy teacher, and therefore, not very successful. Your students are not there to make you look good. Your job is to make THEM look good. Your students do not serve you. YOU serve your students. We don’t know that we care about our students until we begin working with them. But if you’re lucky, you will attract wonderful students who will inspire you as much as you inspire them.
- Punctual and Reliable – You may not think this is a big deal, especially if you are spot on perfect with everything above, but…it matters. Being punctual matters a great deal. Being reliable is even a bigger deal. Let’s face it, if you are spot on perfect with all the points mentioned above, you already know this. You don’t need me to tell you, that even before you begin teaching, being on time every time already gives the impression that you are organized, care about your students, and are confident in your teaching ability.When you are late or cancel class with short notice for personal reasons, other than a major illness, accident or death in the family, it gives the impression that you are disorganized or flaky, or worse, that you don’t have your life together. But who does, right? That point is irrelevant when students have paid you to teach them. While you may get sympathy, it is not good for business. Of course, life happens. What is important to students is that these times are few and far between. While you may blame events that are totally out of your control, from a student perspective, it is all the same. They may stop coming, or they may not. But if they do drop out, you don’t want to be known as the teacher who is unreliable.
In Part 2, I will have many more secrets of successful belly dance teachers that you can apply and be successful, too.