Health and Wellness in dance encompasses a myriad of subjects, today let’s look at ways to make that first day of dance class a positive experience for your child. In my experience, often times how a parent handles that first day (particularly with young students or when starting at a new school) has a great impact on how the child copes within a new environment, or with a new teacher.
The first day of dance class is filled with much excitement, particularly for the youngest students coming into our studios. Many nerves often accompany the young dancers, and their parents as well! In some areas it is common to have a ‘viewing window’ for parents so they can sit and observe the class from outside the studio. And, in others it is common that the studio/teacher asks the parents to wait outside during the class.
Having taught in both situations experience has demonstrated that students are much better off if they come into the class on their own starting from the beginning of the very first class. Parents, on the other hand, are sometimes not so happy with this decision.
To the Teachers:
It is helpful to provide a time at the END of class (the last 10-15 min.) for the parents to come into the studio and sit with their child (ages 3-8yrs). This allows you time to get to know your students and set the ground rules/boundaries for your class, AND (perhaps most importantly) gives you the time to address the parents and explain the ground rules and boundaries to them as well. If you want parents to back you up when it comes to discipline or issues that arise in class, taking the time to address the parents directly is incredibly helpful. This also allows you to properly introduce yourself (assistants & accompanists) to the parents and give them a bit of insight into your experience (aka…building trust between teacher and parent).
To the Parents:
More often than not, you are much more nervous about your child’s first dance class than your child is themselves. Here are a few general guidelines to follow on that exciting, first day which will help to ease anxiety for all involved:
1. Ensure that you have the appropriate attire for your child. Every dance school usually has specific requirements – the last thing you want is for your child to feel left out on the first day because they do not have the correct attire. Dress code is the same as a uniform that would be worn for sports – if your child is dressed in the wrong uniform they will feel it when they go onto the ice being the only one dressed differently. This is part of the tradition and history of dance, creates a uniform look amongst the students, and fosters a feeling of unity within the group.
Here is a great blog post from The Healthy Dancer blog about why dress code is so important: Dress Code
2. Ensure that your child’s hair is secure. Again, every school has their requirements when it comes to hair. Is a bun required? Ponytail? Some general guidelines – hair should always be secured off of the face so that it does not fall out during class (distracting your child). Boys with long hair should also pull hair back into a ponytail. All of these options lengthen the line of the neck and allow the teacher to be able to see the alignment of the spine from the lumbar region (lower back) through to the cervical region (neck)
Here is a link to an easy to follow bun making lesson on YouTube: Bun-making Tutorial
3. ARRIVE EARLY. Especially on day one, whether you are going to a new dance school or not. Rushing adds stress to both your experience and, most importantly, your child’s experience.
4. The Pre-Class Bathroom Stop. Whether they need to or not, take a moment to take care of this need beforehand. Yes, some will need to go during class, but we do want to try to work towards not having to go during class time. And on day one, particularly with 3-6 yr olds, if one has to go during class there is sure to be a revolving door between the studio and bathroom that day as every student in the class suddenly has to go.
5. Viewing Windows. Please, please, please, avoid being the parent that waves constantly at their child or tries to scold them via miming gestures during the class. First, this is very distracting for the entire class. Second, this is completely embarrassing for your child ( My apologies if anyone is offended…but its true!).
6. If the teacher asks you to wait outside the studio, please do so. Again, making your way into the class (barging in) right off the hop, in my experience, is not going to help ease your child into the studio environment – it actually makes the process much more difficult. Generally the child will then expect the parent to be in the class with them the following week (and weeks to come).
7. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. If your child has any behavioural or attention issues, injuries or surgeries they are recovering from, or physical impairments of any kind – take a moment at the end of the class to SHARE THIS WITH THE TEACHER. Too many times have teachers been left ‘out of the loop’ by well-meaning parents who do not want their child to be ‘labeled’ by the teacher. This is understandable, but the teacher cannot provide the best environment for your child’s experience if they do not know your child’s story.
8. If there is a place for you to sit and relax at the studio, take the time to do this on day one. You will have a chance to meet a few parents, check out the surroundings, and ensure that you are there precisely when your child comes out of class ready to tell you what they learned!
Wishing you a wonderful start to the dance season!
Author: Jacqui Davidson