You know it’s coming…Parent Observation Week! The week many teachers dread, especially if you teach little ones! It never fails… they cry, hurt themselves, pee in the middle of the studio, or just stare at you while you do the Hokey Pokey by yourself, all while you have a “paying” audience as witnesses… Thanks, kiddos!
I never looked forward to parent observation week, until I created the DiscoverDance program. Now, it has become one of my favorite weeks in the dance season! Sure, the parents can watch through the viewing window each week. But, it is during observation week that the parents learn WHY this program is so unique and beneficial for their child’s development! I’m not just selling dance classes and I LOVE explaining that to the parents.
I go through my lesson plan step by step and explain why we do the things we do. I share with them how their dancer’s creative and physical development is more important than mimicking a cute dance routine. My two year olds show their parents how repetition gives them confidence and how the use of props enhances their learning. My three year olds yell out words like “locomotor movement” and demonstrate all the creative ways we can get from one place to another. I explain to the parents that the four year olds always do their showcase dance by themselves first each week, so that their brains and bodies can work on memory development, and by the end of the season they will be able to do the entire dance without my assistance.
It is such a fun week for me and I wish the same for every dance educator out there. Is it still a crazy week? Heck yea! But, in the end, the parents themselves DISCOVER why their dancers love dance, see their dancers’ DEVELOPMENT and leave with their own APPRECIATION for the ART of dance.
TEACHER TIP: ALWAYS give a disclaimer and blame the craziness on having an audience present.
“Even though we would love for today to be a normal dance day, it won’t be because we have an audience. But, we are glad you are here and we are going to do our very best!”
If you teach PARENT AND TOT CLASSES, you know they can be challenging. However, they have the potential to be the most rewarding classes at your studio. YOU have the opportunity to encourage the bond between participants while, at the same time, teaching the parents about your program, how their child develops, and why the art form is so important for their child’s physical and mental health. How cool is that?!?!
In my early years of teaching Parent and Tot classes, I focused on the children. I wanted them to have fun and be happy in hopes that their parents would see how awesome dance was and would sign them up for future classes. However, I noticed the parents would not participate. They would rather sit and bark orders at their toddler (“Go dance!”), chat with their bestie who was also in the class, or even talk on their cell phone while the class was in session. Ummm…. Who does that?!?! I knew I needed to change my approach.
Here are some tips that surfaced once I made these changes. I hope you find them helpful in your classes too!
1. Set Clear Expectations- Don’t assume parents know the rules and etiquette of a dance class. Before every single class, go over your expectations. “Good morning, everyone! We are going to have so much fun together today. Grown-ups, make sure your cell phones are silenced, please keep chit chat between your child and other grown-ups to a minimum, and remember…if you are having fun, your child will also have fun. Let’s dance!”
2. Instruct the Parents- Forget about the kiddos! The children will participate because their grown-ups are participating. I PROMISE! If a child sees that their mom and dad are doing what I ask them to do, the child will follow. If the child sees that their mom or dad is having a blast, the child will join in on the fun. When giving directions, instruct the parents first. “Alright grown-ups, everyone on your feet” or “time to go across the floor, grown-ups, please go have a seat by the wall.” Most parents probably never grew up dancing, so they don’t know what to do. Your verbal cues will help guide them and make them more comfortable in class. It will also give them no choice but to do what you ask when you address them directly. :)
3. Praise the Parents- I know it sounds silly, but grown-ups need to be praised for a job well done just like their child needs praise. Call them out and let them know they’re doing a great job. “I see Rebecca playing peek a boo with her little one. Let’s all play peek a boo.” Or, as you’re moving through the class tell them “that’s so creative, good job!” or a simple “great energy!”. I’ve never met a parent who didn’t appreciate the positive feedback. I mean, we are asking them to step out of their comfort zone and act like a two-year-old, let’s build their confidence so they continue that play at home!
More tips for a successful Parent/Tot class:
· Create a home base out of mats for the class to come back to between activities. By creating this visual, dancers and grown-ups know exactly where I want them to be in the room without ever giving a detailed verbal cue.
· Create an age appropriate curriculum that focuses on early childhood physical development, rather than proper dance technique.
DiscoverDance Early Childhood Dance Education offers a movement curriculum and teaching resources for the developing child. Click here to explore all products.