Ballroom Dance > What Makes A Good Teacher?

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

  1. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    Wandering back on topic... a good teacher, in my opinion:
    • Tailors their teaching style to the student (as much as they are able). E.g. one couple may need more repetition in a lesson, while that might be a waste of time for another couple; one student might need to be shown a figure, while another needs to be lead/backlead. Some coaches are better at this than others, so a "good teacher" can vary depending on the student.
    • Tailors their information to the student. It's never fun to receive a rote, cookie-cutter lesson that a coach gives to all their students. (My best example is a pro who insisted on giving me the ubiquitous "heel turn technique lesson" for a step, when I was actually struggling to apply some weird open smooth shaping to the step.)
    • Breaks down information/actions into understandable bits that the student can apply. In other words, don't say (as I always do to my partner) "just do it better!" Again, whether a teacher's breakdown is helpful can often vary from student to student.
    • Doesn't talk down to their student - perhaps this is a personal turn-off for me, but my fellow students usually agree.
    • Challenges the student. The information the teacher deems appropriate to work on should not be a constant rehash of information the student has already been working on for a while (even if they haven't completely mastered it yet). This is the difference between a so-so lesson and a blow-your-mind lesson. (Of course, this probably doesn't apply to people who take weekly lessons, or pro/am students who need to practice).
    • Changes tactics. If the student has been working on something for a while and isn't getting it at all, i.e. to the point where the teacher can't really challenge them with new information yet, they probably need to hear it a different way.
    chomsky likes this.
  2. LordBallroom

    LordBallroom Member

    I think the phrase you're looking for is "a tree is judged by its fruits." Not only that but you appear to be shifting the conversation from "generating sales in the dance business" to "personal integrity." My guess is that you'll tie the two together by saying they're dependent on each other which I won't totally disagree with, but we were talking about how to run a business. Integrity, and specifically humility, is one of many aspects of that. My mantra on here has been "I want to hear what has proven to work". I want to hear from people who are successful hence the reason I'm questioning the people that offer advice. Who needs advice from somebody that has no fruit to their credit? When people tell me what works and what doesn't work I want to hear about the context in which that advice was applied. That way I can draw parallels to what I do and find what's applicable to my situation. As far as being too cocky to grow, why do you think I came here in the first place? if someone criticises what I do, I simply want to know why I should take that criticism seriously. I have no need for criticism from buffoons. To listen to their criticism would only be to my detriment. Through probing, I'm able to get a better idea of who I'm actually getting advice from. And something else, when people start making disparaging remarks about a proven system it only raises red flags about their "expertise". My resistance to some of the advice I received was in fact because they felt their notions about what we do are misguided. It's like someone trying to insult a Ferrari. When you question a system that has generated vast sums of money for decades and decades and call it 'inappropriate" you do actually look like a buffoon. it's hard to take you seriously. I probably could've lighten up a little bit given that the internet is an incredibly easy place to miscommunicate oneself. For that i apologize. I was too harsh in my criticism.
    Lioness likes this.
  3. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    Since we're on the topic of criticsm: this is the kind of thing that makes people not like what you have to say. Any people. Teachers, students, peers, and customers alike.

    This is not the way a respectful person interacts with peers (and betters) and it's not the way a respectable person interacts... on a forum, but also in real life. You should note that the reactions you're getting here, based on how you present yourself and how you treat others, are very applicable to the reactions you will get from students.

    We get it - you want to know the background of people you're getting information and advice from. But there is such a thing as tack and consideration, and they don't involve insults, immediate rejection of ideas that don't line up with yours, or rejecting ideas unless the commenter ponies up a more-than-adequate resume.
    chomsky likes this.
  4. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    The funny thing is... you came here asking people for their opinions, and when they didn't line up with yours, you decided it was because they were buffoons with no fruit...? But you actually had no idea who you are talking too.

    So why on earth would you ask a bunch of total strangers their opinion... only to diss them... because you don't even know their accomplishments... because they are strangers? That is just weird.
  5. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    Well, Monsanto is highly successful, because they make a lot of money. Should we all follow their example?
    IndyLady likes this.
  6. twnkltoz

    twnkltoz Well-Known Member

    My favorite part was when he said, "If Larinda is as good as she says..." BWAHAHA! That speaks volumes of what he knows about the dance world.
    dbk likes this.
  7. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

  8. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    I would not want to be besieged by emails if I was a dance pro! There is one thing to send a quick text or email clarifying a lesson time or comp entry, that sort of thing... but to actually ask for clarification on a particular pattern or technique... I think that has to wait until the next lesson.
  9. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    I offer it... no one really ever takes me up on it though.
  10. Lioness

    Lioness Well-Known Member

    I think this is getting a little too personal, tbh...

    My idea of a good teacher is one that has something to teach me, and can do it well.

    When I was a social dancer, a teacher that was more accomplished than me was what I needed. Someone who could teach me the basics of lead and follow, and some steps and sequences.

    Now that I'm a competitive dancer, I look for a coach that's been successful in competitions, knows the current dance scene and trends, and knows the syllabus and the steps well. I want someone who can make a sequence that fits me and DP, and our abilities.

    In addition, I look for a teacher who is friendly, not stuck up (a lot of teachers, when we were looking for a new coach, heard who we had previously danced with, and got snooty and derisive. As soon as a teacher showed that level of unprofessionalism, I didn't even consider dancing with them), and who has a lot of successful and happy students.

    The coach we ended up dancing with coaches a lot of competition couples, but also has a successful group class and a lot of happy social couples. The head couple of the school is a long-time competitive couple, now retired, but many of their more experienced dancers coach the social couples, too.
    We get value for money, in that lessons are $60 an hour (average for my city) and our coach is always happy to answer questions while we are practising.
  11. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    To LordBallroom, if you are looking for ways to increase "sales" with new students.. I would suggest that rather than focusing on what things to say to create a "romantic atmosphere" as you put it, why not have a class lesson where at the end, the couple feels they can actually do the basics of a dance together.. .even if their technique needs help. I think walking away from a lesson with the thrill of knowing you have accomplished something new, no matter how small, is the thing that keeps students coming back... if your focus is just on sales to newcomer students... that is what I would suggest.
  12. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    My new pro ( well we are eight months in, so can't call him new any more), is the epitome of a good dance instructor. He is consistently pleasant and professional, has the credentials of championships to back up his work, both as a competing pro and as an instructor with his pro am students, he has a structured plan for improvement, is able to observe and explain quickly how to correct errors and how to improve, treats everyone well, treats everyone individually, never is in a bad mood, is able to lighten things up when lessons start getting intense, gives positive feedback when it is deserved, and every lesson I walk out feeling good and feeling that I have learnt more than when I walked in. He is also open to any discoveries I may have... if I want to work in a pattern that I enjoy to a preexisting routine for example, but also knows when and how to say when that would not work. I certainly don't email him with questions about our lesson but if I text about a quick lesson time change or coaching opportunity he responds right away.Although I recognize that he is the instructor and I am the student he still treats me as an equal in his tone and manner. Truly, he is a great example of a good instructor.
    chomsky and Larinda McRaven like this.
  13. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    so noted.
  14. JudeMorrigan

    JudeMorrigan Well-Known Member

    Just a couple of points for you, LordBallroom:

    - I can totally understand not wanting to casually assume that people you meet online are who they say they are. Frankly, I think you would have benefited from spending a bit more time lurking to get a feel for the quality of instructors we're fortunate enough to have posting her, but that's ok. But then ... there's Larinda, who you were quite dismissive towards. Possibly you figured that "Larinda McRaven" was a bit too awesome to be a real name. To be honest, I couldn't entirely fault you for that. But a simple Google search would have told you who she was. Alternately, the dance community is really not that large. If you asked those "top pros" you know if they know a Larinda who teaches out of Boston, there's actually a pretty fair chance that they'd at least know of her. In short, by all means, take a trust but verify approach. Just assuming that people who disagree with you are yokels who don't know what they're talking about isn't necessarily the wisest course one could take though.

    - For what it's worth, there are elements of the ballroom community that have, over the years, had something of a reputation for sleazy sales tactics that border on the flat-out predatory. Now, let me be very, very clear. I am NOT accusing you of doing any such thing. I'm sure you're a lovely person who is nothing but fair to his students. But the people who have done such things did so because they made good money doing it. It's a pretty good example of how a system that "has generated vast sums of money for decades and decades" is not inherently a good system. There are other metrics one could, and should look at.
  15. madmaximus

    madmaximus Well-Known Member

    This topic reminds me of my zen teacher many years ago, who taught me a life lesson when I questioned the truth of his words (yes, I was somewhat that guy).

    He said, "... is something less true, and therefore less credible, because it is spoken by a child? Or because their station in life happens to be lower than yours?

    If you were in dire need of help would you refuse it because it was offered by a prostitute or a beggar or a sidewalk vendor?..."

    I think a good teacher is someone who can show you truth with absolute clarity.

    The lesson is in developing the skill to see and appreciate that truth--instead of casting it aside because of what you think about the messenger.

    toothlesstiger and frotes like this.
  16. frotes

    frotes Member

    A good teacher learns from their student. And a good student teaches their teacher.
    chomsky likes this.
  17. danceronice

    danceronice Well-Known Member

    I moved 900 miles from where Larinda lives, started with NP whom I don't think I'd even crossed paths with before as we'd been on different competitive circuits, AFAIK he never competed directly with her (doesn't remember it, at least) and he knew EXACTLY who Larinda is. A quick Google would bring up plenty of proof.

    And JudeMorrigan is right, some of the emphasis on sales sounds a bit too much like the 'bad old days', what with the lawsuits and people even writing a play about predatory dance teachers taking little old ladies for their entire life savings. Those guys sold thousands of lessons and made lots of money, too, but they made Bernie Madoff look upstanding by comparison. A good teacher isn't thinking first and foremost about making the next sale and getting warm bodies through the door. In fact, a good teacher recognizes when a student is going to be a bad fit and knows when to let them go instead of keeping them because money's money.

    I'm not sure the accessibility thing is a good/bad thing, just a personal decision. I still could call or e-mail my teachers in Boston, I have their info (or I could just PM them here.) I don't have any number or contact info for NP other than the studio numbers. I don't think he or his teachers make a huge practice of giving out their private contact numbers. The only down side I've found to it is it can make hunting people down at competitions a little tricky, but in general, I don't feel I NEED to able to contact him any time. If I have a question, I can save it for my next lesson. He's still a good teacher that I enjoy working with. So I wouldn't use giving out an e-mail or cell number as a positive or a negative indicator, just a personal preference.
  18. wooh

    wooh Well-Known Member

    It IS an awesome name. :)

    Respectful. Courteous. Not trying to sell me something. Teaching me what I need to/want to know. No need to create a "romantic atmosphere."

    It's not a sales industry, it's a service industry.

    You're selling a service. If you make it a top notch service, people will want to come back, and you won't HAVE to sell the service. The service will sell itself.

    And definitely might want to make sure you know who you're talking to before you act like the rear of a donkey. You never know, it could be someone that could turn into a fabulous mentor, the rich lady in town that will buy you a dance studio, or someone who's going to be judging you at a local competition, someone that might refer you some students, any number of people that could be beneficial to you if you shut your mouth long enough to find out who they are.
    IndyLady and fascination like this.
  19. LordBallroom

    LordBallroom Member

    I googled her last night. It was after that google that my tone toward her lightened up big time hehehe......
  20. LordBallroom

    LordBallroom Member

    That's fine for truth that is self-evident. i wouldn't say most business practices fall into that category unless they are in regards to moral ethics.

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