This seems to be a hot topic at the moment! On the face of it, we have pretty strong feelings on this one it at Dancewise HQ – but it’s come up so often in the last few weeks (everything from parents chatting in the lobby to students arguing the for and against in debate teams at school) that we thought it would be worth going into in more depth.
Those for might argue that when they shout at a student they see an instant improvement in the behaviour. I think this is probably true – but for me the more interesting part is why the behaviour improves. Isn’t this similar to a bully in the playground who achieves what they want through intimidation and fear?
Those in favour might also say that shouting establishes a sense of authority and hierarchy within the studio or classroom. But if a teacher is confident, charismatic and enthusiastic about their subject, you’ll get short term buy-in from your students. From there if you show you genuinely care about your students and their progress, show a real interest in them and build rapport with them you might just find that they want to behave well for you.
But dance is a discipline! What about discipline?! I think that if your rules are concise, clear and few in number (we only have 3 rules and even our 4 year olds can recite them) your students will follow them for the most part because they a) know what the expectations are, b) they respond brilliantly to having clear boundaries and c) they want to behave for you because they like you and enjoy the bond you have. This isn’t to say we should be overly-familiar with our students – to maintain a great student-teacher relationship we say that we should be friendly with our students, not friends with them.
What about getting great results? Old school dance teachers (notably those with their own reality show – pyramid, anyone?) are famous for getting high standards from their students. Doesn’t the end justify the means? Well I believe you can achieve results that are just as good, if not better through the use of rapport and mutual respect. (I wonder if the ‘shouty’ teachers have ever stopped to consider that if they didn’t have students they couldn’t be teachers?!) The respect definitely needs to go both ways. Students perform better when they are happy, relaxed and feel free to make mistakes. And never mind learning your subject, won’t this make for better people who go out into the world living the values of acceptance, passion and positivity? Now that is surely a case for the ends justifying the means!
I also wonder what kind of students ‘shouty’ teachers are working with! Touch wood, we’ve never, in our nearly 40 years combined teaching experience, never come across an unteachable student. We always say that there are no such thing as bad kids, only bad behaviour and that there are no such things as bad classes, only bad teachers. So maybe the “shouty ones”, need to look within themselves for the teaching skills that they can improve and develop rather than taking the easy route of attempting to manage behaviour through fear.
So, having said all that, are there any circumstances where I feel justified in shouting at a student?
When I see a student behaving in a way where they could hurt themselves or someone else, I will occasionally raise my voice to cause an immediate stop to the behaviour.
Note: this only works because I virtually never raise my voice. If I shouted all the time it would go in one ear and out the other. But because of the shock value of “wow Miss A just shouted” students tend to stop in their tracks.
Second note: this is always followed with a calm, caring “do you understand why I shouted at you?” so that the student a) understands why the behaviour wasn’t unacceptable and b) so they know that the shout came from a position of love and concern for their well-being, not some power-trip, not because of lack of control and not because we have no other way of communicating.
What do you think? We’d love to hear your comments below!
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