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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Do teachers "give up" on adult students?


Gambina

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As an adult student, I am kinda throwing this question out there to fellow students or even teachers...

 

I was wondering what your opinions are in regards to teachers expectations/hope for adult students? Of course, every teacher wants to see their students succeed, they want to see them improve and feel proud when they do.

As adult students, however, life gets in the way far too often. It holds us back, keeps us from regular classes, exhausts us to the point we can't always give it our all, or have the time to stretch everyday, or cross train.

 

Is there a point where teachers just "give up" on students that never progress? Teachers that just stop pushing because they know this pupil probably wont show up next week, or remember anything he/she was corrected on, wont jump or dance full out.

 

I have amazing teachers, and I'm not saying they would ever do this. I try my best to work hard (I'm the sweatiest person in class) and try to apply every correction, I feel privileged when I'm being challenged or forced to "do it until it's correct" any exercise I've messed up. But of course I would never want my teacher to lose faith in me because I've killed myself at work, missed classes, not tried hard enough because of lack of sleep, gained too much weight, reduced strength, or fumbled through numerous exercises one too many times.

 

I am curious if this does happen, teachers are people too and it can get tiring and pointless to exert so much energy where its not appreciated.

 

What do you guys think? Have you seen this happen in your classes either to you or someone else?

Edited by Gambina
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I take 4 adult classes a week with different instructors (different studios) all with varianing attendace levels and I don't beleive I've ever seen any instructor back off on any adult student that makes it into class.

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Gambina -- I probably opt to take it philosophically...... that I can still benefit from comments/corrections given to younger possibly more advanced or able students. I make those comments/corrections my own, apply them to myself and make a mental note of them. Corrections for one person (unless highly personal or very specific) can often really help if I think them over -- someone on this site said some time ago very wisely that teachers have eyes everywhere and even if a student does not get a comment the teacher is thinking to herself...(but can't possibly comment on everyone in class......just not possible.)

 

I accept comments to others or to the whole class as my corrections for the day and try not to develop a complex over that. I am on the same page w/ you when you talk about feeling honored to be made to do something by the teacher a couple of times till correct. That has been the height of success in class, to me as well.

 

Sometimes I stop and realize that teachers often are doing the best they can to get through the long day themselves and probably try to put their energies where they would have the most impact.....

 

Here is a thought for you: I also think that teachers are sometimes very sensitive and sensible in a good and professional way to purposely not correct a student who may struggle a bit, or seem less energetic than usual that day. I think teachers might prefer to make an example of a competent student knowing that others can benefit from the comments and don't want to make a struggling student feel "picked on" which I am sure a very good teacher wants to avoid.

 

Hang in there and sooner or later most people visibly trying to improve will get comments/corrections. Asking some good questions to your teacher at an appropriate time about technique or about a combination, to show her your mental engagement and strong interest, you may find opens the way for her to comment on you out loud in class a bit more. I am pretty sure she does not want to offend or embarrass someone who may visibly be needing a bit more time with some move or step......

 

My classes that I take have both - actively engaged, and some more laid back adults who do not exhibit much interest in stepping up their ability.....

 

It seems obvious though to say it is the younger, more able students who get the most comments...I think I have just come to expect this now and don't even question it much anymore.....Teachers, are we right on this?

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Right now, I take adult classes before my RAD classes start up. I take 8 classes a week including conditioning and pointe. In my experience, I often have teachers who are much harder on me than other students.

 

In addition, the teachers often notice who is able to correct their mistakes quicker and then more corrections would be given to the individual. I had one teacher who did not give me corrections until I asked her what I needed to work on, that prompted corrections directed to me. As long as you express interest to improve, I am sure it would be given :)

 

Oh did I mention that the adult student who has the ballet body gets the most corrections too regardless of their level.

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Chocakety ---- Interesting comments! I applaud you for getting lots of comments or corrections. As Gambina said, and I agree with, this is a sign for us students of great accomplishment and improvement in one's ballet to receive this feedback and interest from a teacher.

Your comment about being given more comments after asking what you needed to work on is brilliant! That is a good approach for a student - thank you so much for sharing that. I can see how that is effective (and I have had a similar experience in a small way).

As for the ballet body being a factor.........how so....? I may also have had this fleetingly cross my mind though could not be sure that was indeed the reason..... that is a really interesting observation as well. What I probably have noticed too though is that the body aspect may simply disappear in fairly short order if the ability does not quickly catch up, as far as teacher comments go....from what I have seen at least...

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Very interesting comments!

 

Writing as a teacher here: I do not "give up" on any student.

I do "back off" if I notice (or think I notice) that the student is having an especially bad day, seems over tired, irritated, missed a lot, etc.

 

What I admit to NOT liking is when I give a direct, hands-on correction and the student appears to not even make the slightest attempt to implement the correction.

This luckily seldom happens. :)

 

-d-

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Thank you, diane -- great to hear from a teacher, and be reminded of the importance of responding with decisiveness to a comment/hands on correction from a teacher. And to have it confirmed that teachers do direct their comments taking into account the readiness of the student to hear, and receive the corrections that day. It makes sense and is really helpful.

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I've never had a teacher give up on me. I've been lucky to have brilliant teachers.

 

But, as a teacher myself in a different (but related) field, I know that increasingly students find correction difficult. And some people new to ballet don't realise that corrections are like fairy gold dust, and not criticisms. And I can imagine ballet teachers having to make split second decisions, drawing on long experience, of who will take corrections and who won't or can't.

 

I find that increasingly teachers give whole class corrections and comments.

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^^ I love it, Redbookish! "Fairy Gold Dust"! I will use that.

 

I wonder why it is that many students are finding it harder to take corrections? Do we teachers have to find different ways of conveying them, perhaps?

 

Interesting point about there being more general, "all-class" corrections. I find myself doing that, too, more than I would perhaps want to. Usually it is because I feel /think that someone (often the person who would actually benefit the most from said correction) is too sensitive /embarrassed /whatever to be singled out for comment. Hmmm.

 

This is helpful to read students' perspectives on this, as well as from a teacher in another field. :)

It is entirely possible that what I feel/think is not what the student is feeling/thinking.

 

-d-

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I love being singled out, diane, and I'm one of those neurotic adult students who think I'm terrible if I don't get corrections! But I've done ballet on & off since my teens, and so know how it works (I should be a lot better than I am considering how long I've been at the barre ...).

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One thing we know about humans is that there are individual differences, so I'm sure there are teachers who "give up" on their students. I think that's probably true for all types of students, adults, teens, even professionals. It can come from frustration, boredom, changing expectations, and probably 100 different things I can't think of right now.

 

For the adult student, I think it's also kinda irrelevant. I say that because I think the most important person in an adult student's development as a dancer is the student. Teachers in general are wonderful people. We can't develop without them. But teachers have to consider classes as a whole and not just specific individuals. Teachers don't always think the same about development. It's the student who has to invest the time, thinking, and experimentation that goes into development. It's the student who has to create motivation and what the student wants from dance.

 

Adults are a tough group. They are also a diverse group. They don't all think alike. All of that can make it difficult for a teacher.

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I'm going to comment as a teacher, and address Diane's query first as to why students today find it harder to take corrections. What I'm about to write will probably not be popular, and I'm expecting a lot of people to jump down my throat over it...but here goes.

 

There is definitely a difference in the way the current generation of youngsters and young adults have been raised. I'm not criticizing...because I think that all parents want to do a good job, and love their kids, and only want the best for them. But from what I've observed (and I fully admit that I'm not a parent, and perhaps not qualified to criticize) there is a lot of positive reinforcement in parenting today. Certainly more than when I was a child (I'm 52). I've seen parents shout "great job!" with enormous enthusiasm when a child performs the simplest of tasks (like carrying their plate to the dishwasher). I have a friend who is an administrator at a major university here in NYC, and he agrees, that there is definitely a difference. We have a crop of young adults who are supremely confident (and that's great) but see any correction as a criticism (not so great) since they rarely were told that anything they did was anything less than miraculous. I have a friend who teaches at Broadway Dance Center in NYC (a reputable school, perhaps not the best for ballet in NY, but a good school none the less). Here is what he says "you can't correct them too much or they won't come back". He almost never gives individual corrections but "whole class" corrections.

 

Clearly this doesn't apply to everybody. There are still serious students who crave the corrections. The trick is to figure out who they are. I will often give a "whole class correction" but have the student at whom the correction is aimed, demonstrate. Doesn't always work, but I try. In general, I seem to attract students who want corrections, so I correct them. I don't usually correct adults on their first class unless they are absolute beginners. I will then ask them, on their second class "do you want me to correct you if I notice little things slightly off, or should I leave you alone to work". This is the gentlest way I can think of to ask.

 

With respect to "giving up on a student". I never give up on a student who shows up. NEVER. If I sense that they want the correction, I will correct them. And I will give the same correction...over and over. I try to figure out a different way to say it. It's a challenge for me to get through to the student. I love my adult classes. I love my students. Not all dancers are created equally. Some have better bodies, some are more talented, but if they show up...I am there for them 100%. I understand that an adult recreational dancer has a life and responsibilities that will sometimes keep him/her from class. But if they come, I work with them.

 

I was a late starter. I didn't have a brilliant career in a major company, but I had a career. If my teachers had given up on me when I was a young adult, that would have never happened.

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I have to admitt that I had given up on a lady in my adult class. She was one of this people who never remembers a combination, who never applys any correction, who is dancing since many years (I am talking about 15+), several times a week and has just no sense for her body. It's kind of wasted energy to correct her because she still never pointes her feet in tendus, never holds her stomache and she was told so many times by me and other teachers. She is capable of doing it because if you go there and insist a lot, she does it about half a second and afterwards it is like you said nothing.

 

I continued correcting her because she was a sweet person and she likes ballet a lot so that she still felt comfortable in class but I knew they would have to impact on her.

 

Other than that, if I see that a student at least tries to apply the corrections I go on because it is my job making progress my students! I am paid for that.

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I agree with the posts above about not truly giving up on any student as that reflects my personal experience as well. Teachers sometimes notice that a certain student is really struggling hard and therefore doesn't give all the little corrections that could have been given but instead focus on just a few or even just one major thing for the student to work on while another student may be given more corrections at once as the teacher feels they are able to apply them.

What can also help is to cooperate with the teacher, asking questions. Or show that you remember the correction even though you did not apply it that moment. How many times does it happen that a teacher just looks at me and I suddenly remember to pull up more etc.? Or even if you are unable to remember to apply a certain correction and the teacher repeats it over and over, letting the teacher know that you find it difficult to remember it that way and why you find it difficult to apply might also show them that you are trying even though it might not translate into the correct movement. It has happened to me that whenever I told a teacher that I was struggling with this or that correction to be applied, the teacher thought of another way to convey it, with a different imagery for example. After all, what works for one person best might not work for another and sometimes even the teacher has to think of a new way.

In general I do notice that teachers tend give more corrections to those that seem eager to apply the corrections and/or ask questions. It is also amazing how quickly my teacher notices when someone has a really bad day. We're all on quite friendly terms so when we get together at the beginning of the class and someone doesn't feel very up to it, they can just say that they feel too stressed out or have much tension and either the teacher leaves them alone with too many corrections for the day or pays special attention to their needs, e.g. relaxing the fingers etc.

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Love these diverse viewpoints.... ...this question affects (me) each and every class and I'm so glad Gambina raised the issue ---

 

The student's interaction w/ their teacher, whether it is strictly non-verbal (a look, a facial expression, a pause, a hand gesture of some kind) in the form of a correction; a gentle verbal comment.......; or in the other extreme a scolding rant; is really why we are there, right?

 

Otherwise we would all stay home and just practice w/ some sort of DVD lesson, or look for our ballet knowledge in reference books. Teachers have some personal experience and training that can shed new light on ballet and make it "alive".

 

I do not currently have a problem w/ my teacher or class in terms of receiving the corrections I can handle and want to receive. However the comments above addressing how to possibly prompt the teacher to provide more corrections than she may have realized I'd like - '.....what is it I could stand to work on' in order to improve -- are such great tools for dealing w/ this all-important issue. And I like what was said above also, alluding the the fact that if a student is not getting much feedback the student does have the responsibility of asking the teacher and getting the desired feedback and not just sitting back and waiting 'to be noticed.' Really helpful student strategy for making the most of costly, time-consuming and really treasured class time....

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