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Is it ever ok to let a studio know that they may want to work on a substitute teacher's teaching skills?


I had a substitute recently who could be a much better teacher if she fixed a few things. Her major problem is that she uses class to dance herself. She shows the combination twice through full-out then does the combination with us once it's our turn. When she gets tired, we must be tired so she moves on. If she's hot, she decides not to do petit allegro, etc. When the tempo doesn't fit her right, she'll change it -- while we're in the midst of the combo, or will change the tempo only for the left side. This may just be a confidence issue, but at the end of the combo, if she thinks that the exercise may have been too short or easy, she'll tack on a crazy number of tendus, degages, retires, pirouettes, etc. I've had her twice now, so I know this is the way she teaches the advanced adult class. Both times, I 've seen the other students in the class giving each other "looks" so I know it is not only me.


Now while the above description doesn't make it sound like she could be a good teacher, I still think she could be. She does yell out (over the music) a ton of tips to help your technique but they get garbled between the bad acoustics in the room and the fact that she's breathless because she's also dancing herself. Her original combinations are fine until she tacks on the unnecessary stuff on the end. Basically, she needs to turn her attention away from her needs as a dancer and use her knowledge to help her students.


Is there any right way to let the studio know about the problem or do I just let it go?

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Hard to say.


Seems to me that when a new teacher appears (usually as a sub), somebody from "the management' should observe a class or two and ask students what they think.


This is how it was when a new teacher came to the place where I go last year.


The new teacher was (and is) wonderful. :-)

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This teacher sounds young and perhaps inexperienced. However, I once had a 19-year-old teacher without a lot of experience that I had the utmost respect for, she was that mature and logical in her teaching. I agree that in this case, in particular, the teacher should be observed by someone in authority. She may have a lot of desirable qualities, but seems at this point to be lacking appropriate sensitivity to the needs of the students.


I have had a few substitutes appointed by one particular teacher each year when he did his summer traveling. Apparently, several students who were friends of his approached him and asked to teach and he so appointed them. They were all terrible teachers (I don't mince words when something is obviously and sadly true). Terrible in my book includes not being prepared, spending far too much time trying to compose barre and center during class time, not knowing what kinds of corrections to give, not giving precise demonstrations with correct terminology (a teacher needs to know his/her terms!!!), not perceiving where there might be trouble spots in the combination and giving tips accordingly, not having any musicality and eventually giving up on making an exercise fit the music (big time waster), and getting so involved in showing your own technique that you are not focused on teaching (sounds like this might come into play with the troublesome teacher described).


Teaching is an art and should be so regarded, not a profession to be taken lightly, particularly when people's physical wellbeing is in your hands.

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I have good experiences about talking to the school management about substitutes. In my case it was about some people who were so bad with teaching ballet that I wanted to suggest they only hire them for jazz (for which they were competent enough) in the future. I was heard, and the management took it well; I don't know what measures they took, but at least I've not seen those particular subs since and have seen some good ones. :angry:


So, I don't know if it's "ok", but I've done it, and was not told off, and it seems to have helped. I'm sure that if you explain the matter as well as you did here, they cannot be offended.

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Of course have a word - and have no compunction doing so! You have paid to have a teacher front your class... And she is not being a teacher. You are ever so polite in your post, so I doubt you would tread on any toes having a quiet word to the director of the school and asking them to observe a class or simply explaining the problems you have.


Either way, her teaching style is not acceptable, imho.

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Last night I went to a beginners class, even though I usually take advanced beginners classes, just to make up a miss and because it was at a good time. I started at 36 and still have a lot of work to do on turnout, extension, and strength, so I can always get something out of a class, no matter how elementary.


Or so I thought. The class last night was the worst I've ever been to, and it was a regular teacher. First she had us sit on the floor for a "lecture" on avoiding back injury, which consisted of waving around simple pictures of muscles, and saying, "Well, you use these when you dance," but practically no details. Then we did a few very relaxed floor exercises to stretch the spine. In my opinion this should have been in a separate floor barre class.


Now half an hour has gone by and we get to the barre. Foot flexing. Plié. Tendu. Barre over! Some jumps and then we are told to "improvise" a dying swan. "Improvise" seems like a giveaway word that a teacher isn't pro; the worst substitute last year also told us to improvise.


The students, noticeably many of them in my age group, seemed satisfied, but my very first ballet class was better than this playschool stuff - it was a full class, which confused me at the time, since my model of body learning was learning to play a musical instrument, where the action is built up from microscopic slow drills with a great deal of lecturing, but I've since realized that this is how dance classes work. You just do it.


This is a regular teacher. I can just never go to her class again, and I won't, but I wonder if the word is going to get back to the office and how.

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The word gets back to the office by you contacting the office and telling them what you just told above... I'm afraid that's the only way. The people in the class who seemed satisfied were probably most not aware how ballet should be like, being beginners, after all. If the school is any good, they will hear you.


I notice that you are also from Finland and that there is a Wednesday beginner 1 class in my school given by a teacher I don't know and who doesn't give any other adult ballet classes. Where in Finland are you? :yawn:

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I have a few thoughts.


First, I think it’s a good idea to talk with the school administration about anything that might concern you. If you are paying the dance school bills, I guarantee that management wants to know what you think about almost every aspect of their business. They may agree or disagree with you, but they want to hear what you have to say regardless.


Second, students tend not to be very good judges of teachers. That’s true in formal education and, I presume, also in ballet class.


Third, my observation of substitute dance teachers is that students tend to be unhappy with substitutes who teach different from however the usual teacher teaches. This is especially true if the usual teacher is well liked.


Fourth, I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to try different things. You can be sure that the substitute is doing what he or she thinks is best, and presumably the substitute does have some credentials and experience that gives him or her some basis for making decisions about what goes on in class.


Fifth, it is very difficult to create a class almost immediately when you have just a few minutes to prepare and have never seen the students you are going to teach.


Sixth, people respond differently to teachers. You may hate someone while another person thinks well of the same person.


Personally, subs get my sympathy. They are trying their best in situations that are not particularly to their liking.

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garyecht, because of some circumstances here, I have seen quite a lot of substitutes during the past two years. Believe me, there is a significant difference between a somewhat subjectively not-so-nice ballet substitute and a really, really bad substitute who doesn't even know ballet him/herself, let alone how to teach it - and you don't need very much ballet training to tell the difference.


It would not come to my mind to complain about any substitute that gave a ballet class; not even if I didn't like the class at all or it was on a completely wrong level. As you say it's a hard thing to sub a class you've possibly never seen before: you don't know the students, not their exact level, and they hate you for not being the regular anyway. :D Neither do I complain if a substitute gives e.g. a floor barre or a jazz class instead of ballet, in the case he/she is not familiar with ballet


But I do complain about substitutes who don't even remember what a tendu is called or spend 30 minutes of the 60 minute class telling stories about the ballet class she used to take (in an obviously Dolly Dinkle school) as a kid and how she likes jazz much better (I'm not exaggerating here). I don't think you need much experience to tell that those things are not appropriate...:yawn:

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Definitely complain and make yourself heard. That class sounds insulting, even at the beginning level. The only injury I ever received was at the hands of an ill prepared substitute. If a person isn't prepared to step in a moment's notice, they're not prepared to teach period. A credible teacher can give even a simple barre and basic center exercises, with little to no warning or preparation time.

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I'm right here in your school, Jaana! (cannot figure out how to insert emoticon here)


I used to get my questions answered by lurking at criticaldance.com (good place but has only one student board) and I only discovered this forum recently. Yeah, don't ever go to that Wednesday class, no matter if you have 30 hours to make up and have exhausted all other ballet options. Probably the jazz class next door had more ballet steps going on by accident than this one did on purpose. And I remember the Dolly Dinkle sub, I think - it was at the end of last year and she also told us to "improvise" and "strive for the ballet <i>feeling</i>." Gah. All I ask from a makeup class is the chance to go home tired (in the right way). Surely, even with two regulars on leave, they can find staff who can run a genuine ballet class for longer than 15 minutes at a stretch.

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Diana, I have 30 hours or so to catch up... :D I've been meaning to get myself to Ms Nelli's Sunday classes, but never seem to get to it when it's actually Sunday.


Nice to meet you online. :)


Please do get touch with the school office about the bad teacher! I've talked to them before about subs, and as I've said, they didn't eat me alive and took the matter seriously. Ours is generally a good school and the administration needs feedback to keep it such.

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