Ballroom Dance > What Makes A Good Teacher?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by SDsalsaguy, Apr 10, 2003.

  1. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    You are not going to get a sympathetic hearing on this forum for how much more valuable good salesmen are than good dancers.

    I'm not sure if it's a language thing or what. "Accolades"? Did they win open level events in independent comps? Or did they get an "attaboy" at a franchise-only comp?

    Ballroom dance is a field that has only one credential to authenticate one's dance skill, and that is winning comps. The various teaching certifications prove that one has passed a test on particular dance syllabi.

    Does a beginner need to learn from a Blackpool Finalist? Probably not. But a beginner is not going to be able to distinguish the quality of a teacher by just looking. Credentials, whether from winning comps, being qualified to judge comps, or teaching certifications give some assurance.
    chomsky likes this.
  2. LordBallroom

    LordBallroom Member

    Who really cares? They're not my trophies. I've just tried to surround myself with successful people so that I can learn from them. I'm not the guy taking students all over the country to competitions, but I'd like to be. I'm not the guy that attracts students because of my awards, I'd like to be. I have a niche in the business but that's really about it.
  3. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    This is moving in the right direction, if you'd like to have a conversation with folks in this forum, rather than an argument.
  4. toothlesstiger

    toothlesstiger Well-Known Member

    BOT, and in light of some of the exchanges here, and I'm sure it's been said before, a good teacher listens. And that means not just to what the student says, but what their body language and their facial expressions say.
  5. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    if you want to be a teacher with competitive students, as per the most recent post, then you are going to have to be a good ballroom dancer and a good an aside, the reason that people are asking so many questions is that there are ways to win at certain comps and come home with trophies, that mean virtually nothing...all comps are not created equally so you can't just toss around the notion that they are truly top notch unless you actually know what constitutes top notch...some of the least talented pros that I know are the best at "painting the pig" and making themselves sound like the second coming...also, as to the notion of not needing to be terribly good to teach, that may be true for a while, but then you will be the guy who loses his students once they have tapped your skill set...because, trust me on this, lots of students outgrow and progress beyond their instructor when the instructor is one who has little personal instruction themselves...spend time investing in your dancing not in having a spiel
    debmc likes this.
  6. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    For me, the most important aspects of what makes a good (for me) teacher is that they have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of ballroom dancing and a desire, willingness and ability to focus on those fundamentals in their lessons. In my admittedly relatively limited experience, there's actually been a fairly strong correlation between that and how accomplished the instructor has been.

    I mean, let me be as honest as I can be. I'm a fairly high-end bronze student, lower-end silver student. That means that in absolute terms, I'm really not all that great of a dancer. I take my pro-am lessons from an Ohio Star Ball rising star finalist. Is that overkill? Perhaps. But I feel like I learn more from her than I ever did from the adult pre-champ level dancer I take my am-am lessons with. And it's NOT because of anything fancy that my pro-am instructor is teaching me. She was actually really insistent as recently as last January that I stick with bronze. (Which I strongly approved of, and which made her excitement in June when I brought up the possibility of starting me on silver all the more satisfying.)

    ETA: That's not intended as a critcism of my am-am instructor. He's quite good for what he is and always encourages his students to take lessons with more accomplished dancers when they have the opportunity to do so. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to take lessons with my pro-am instructor.
  7. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Irony, anyone? Let's see...I know a little bit about food because I eat it, so I think I'll go on a chef forum and tell them how to do their jobs.

    As a person who does teach a lot of beginners, in my opinion a good teacher is one who:

    1. Knows the subject matter well and is able to convey it to any type of learner
    2. Produces dancers who are successful according to the student's goals (winning competitions, a comfortable and skilled social dancer, etc.)
    3. Teaches because they are passionate about dance and teaching, not because they want to get rich.

    I teach social dancers and wedding couples. A lot of them. How do I gauge my success? When I see my students at the dance on Saturday night, having a ball, and people regularly seek them out as partners....that's success to me. When my wedding couple sends me a thank you letter, telling me the dance went well and they were so happy with it...that's success to me. When a student tells me they've been trying to learn a concept or pattern for a long time from different teachers, and I finally got through to them and they learned, that's a huge success. There are many ways to gauge success as a dance instructor.

    When a student can't re-up her package because of finances, but she gives me thank you gifts and continues dancing and greets me with enthusiasm every time she sees me, I don't feel I've failed by not talking her into buying more lessons than she can afford. It's just not about the numbers for me. Currently, I'm teaching as many hours as I really want to, although admittedly I teach part time. I suppose I could bolster my sales skills and get more hours for myself if I really wanted to, but it's just not in my nature so I'm not gonna. I'd rather focus my efforts on being an even better dancer and teacher.
  8. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    As for email...I do invite my students to text or email with questions. They almost never do, but they like the gesture. If it's a simple question, I'm happy to answer because they will get better quality practice. If it's a long, involved question/answer, I might give them a quick answer but then tell them we need to cover that in a lesson.
  9. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    Dial down the superlatives then and maybe folks here will take you as less of a joke and more as a true beginner whose enthusiasm sometimes makes you say things like 'top professional' without knowing either what that means or implies. And actually, we really DO care since you put it 'out there' as the basis of your bragging. If you can't back it up by your own accomplishments, don't bring up mythical 'pros' and their successes. Too many folks here have worked for many years for the quality of dance and insight that they have, and that you can actually interact with for FREE - if you stop insulting everyone...
    dbk likes this.
  10. LordBallroom

    LordBallroom Member

    At least be fair. I didn't insult anyone. I may be a bit cocky but I didn't get personal with anyone.
  11. madmaximus

    madmaximus Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the great advice LordBallroom!

    Actually, before we met, the other teachers in the ballroom told him already--in a lot of detail than I would be comfortable in personally telling him, without feeling like I'm bragging--about what my credentials are (and mind you, their credentials are even more formidable than my 20 years).

    Another teacher and I did a couple of advanced demos for him, just to show him the kind of polish and level that years of experience and practice can bring.

    But he persists in "dissing" what I (and the other teacher) have to offer--which is a Championship level perspective--the refinements of which is obviously beyond what he can even recognize (and yet rails against it).

    He is too thick-headed to realize the wonderful lessons he can have from me and my studio.

    I wish he would listen, but he is too focused on himself and what he says and lacks the humility to learn from me (and my studio, overall).

    Do you think I should just ditch this obnoxious, pontificating, self-centered guy, or develop a rapport and attribute his resistance to bad manners and upbringing, or should I persist on teaching him nevertheless and turn a blind eye?

    What do you think LordBallroom?

    chomsky and Bailamosdance like this.
  12. LordBallroom

    LordBallroom Member

    My gut feeling says this student of yours is a little sharper than he may be letting on. My gut feeling says that he can be a little "over the top" in how he expresses himself but that he doesn't take himself quite as seriously as some may think. My gut feeling says this guy pays attention to EVERYTHING people say because he knows there is always some nugget of truth, a lesson, that can be extrapolated from it. To answer your question, yeah I'd talk to this guy. I'd also respect the fact that he uses his abilities as an influencer to better the world through dance and isn't trying to hustle people into buying an inferior product. The more I think about it the more I really like this guy.
  13. fascination

    fascination Site Moderator Staff Member

    interesting...I don't tend to care much for people who have/show little respect for the people who have already achieved what they themselves have not...and while I would not call my own pro particularly humble, when he is receiving a coaching from someone, he is very respectful and deferential...
    IndyLady and Bailamosdance like this.
  14. Wannabee

    Wannabee Well-Known Member

    Wow... Madmaximus should consider himself fortunate indeed to have this insight. I'm a little thicker-skulled than Max I suppose because I've had my fill.
  15. LordBallroom

    LordBallroom Member

    My gut says that Max's student is only too aware of the fact that the world is filled with hustlers and has encountered far too many of them to simply bow at the feet of the next guy proclaiming their greatness. However, I think he has a ton of respect for people that are the real deal and would be honored to learn from them. Not only that, he realizes that knowingly disparaging such people's abilities would only be a poor reflection on himself. I'll go one step further and say that I think he's genuily apologetic if legit pros, as opposed to all the bladders full of hot air, felt insulted by his behavior.
  16. LordBallroom

    LordBallroom Member

    I will add that I prefer teachers that don't take themselves too seriously. Too many of the dance pros that I've met do take themselves way too seriously.
  17. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    Happily, I've found that to almost universally not be the case for me. The pros I've had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with (and NOT just those who have ever seen a dime of my money for lessons or coachings) have generally been very easy-going, welcoming people.
    chomsky likes this.
  18. Bailamosdance

    Bailamosdance Well-Known Member

    Me too. The pros I know are so secure in their abilities and accomplishments that trumpeting them would be anathema. It's usually the newbies that are so caught up in their importance that they manage to alienate almost everyone.

    Now, every pro and peer that I know takes DANCE seriously... it usually means that braggarts and 'hotshots' get a cold shoulder; they probably appear to the wannabe as too serious, but in reality the wannabe is not taken seriously...
  19. madmaximus

    madmaximus Well-Known Member

    Totally agree with your gut LordBallroom--I came to the same conclusion--he likes to THINK that he's a smart guy with the capacity to respect others.

    The really sad part about this? It is painfully and profoundly obvious to everyone around him HOW LACKING and immature he really is--beyond his demonstrated lack of good grace, manners, and civility.

    He is the only one who doesn't notice it--doesn't even notice that his words and behaviour are insulting to people at the studio.

    EVERYONE has the capacity to have respect for people that are the real deal--and would even be honored to learn from them.

    What is hard is RECOGNIZING the real deal--when it's in front of you--only a person of strong character can see that.

    To become good at anything, like becoming a master dancer, one has to be humble enough to recognize one's own cockiness (failings, and ego, and let it go) before they can recognize what a good teacher really is.

    Using the excuse of having a cynical view of people as hustlers is a crutch he uses to rationalize his lack of character and impede his growth--and actually prevents him from seeing the greatness in others who prefer to approach the world with humility instead of annoying the world by needlessly trumpeting their own accomplishments.

    Unfortunately, and sadly, he will remain a child who perceives little beyond the spoken word and the superficial--until he gets the better of his ego.

    He reminds me of that passage in Desiderata:

    "...Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself..."

    chomsky, frotes, freeageless and 3 others like this.
  20. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    IMO, it's never appropriate to question/insult a coach like the student you're describing. (Although obviously questioning something for further clarification is entirely appropriate).

    If you think a coach's information is that wrong, smile and nod and don't come back. If the lesson is horrific, maybe ask for a refund. But arguing with a coach is rude and inappropriate - and moreover, it's pointless. People who do this, in my experience, are not interested in learning; they're interested in showing off what they (think they) know.

    I could say the same about other topics that have cropped up on this thread...

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