Sunday, January 14, 2018

Why is Dance such a powerful educator in the early years?

Why is Early Dance Education so important?
I started my dance school, Stepping Out Dance Factory when I was pregnant with my first child.  I had previous to opening the studio taught for other schools that all had their own values and philosophies.  My own teaching has also been greatly influenced and inspired by my own study in a Diploma of Education and my experiences as a secondary school teacher.  I wanted to create a studio that not only taught the fundamentals of dance technique but also more significantly aspired to educate the cognitive, creative and emotional development of children.  

Movement plays a significant role in the development of children and dance as a discipline has a profound ability to educate them and shape their world. I am fortunate to be in a firm position within my career trajectory having already taught for twenty five years as a dance educator, twenty years as co-director of my own dance studio and enjoyed a twenty two year career as a secondary school teacher.  Extensive experience in early childhood dance education and in the special education sector has also placed me in good stead to have a wide and varied expertise in educational fields.  Further to this, is the amazing team that exists at Stepping Out, all wonderful educators with extensive qualifications.  Miss Georgie possesses a natural and nurturing rapport with her students and along with her BA in Dance from the Victorian College of the Arts is a registered teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance.  Miss Emma is an energetic educator who along with her Bachelor of Primary Education also has a Certificate 4 in Dance Teaching and Management.  I have also completed additional study through the Royal Academy of Dance and along with my BA Dip Ed am also the proud recipient of a Diploma in Dance Teaching Studies. 

Our whole team are vibrant and enthusiastic educators who regard teaching as both a vocation and an honour.  As a mother of five, I am also highly aware of the need to address individual learning styles and to approach the education of children with kindness and consistency.  I am passionate about the impact dance can have on young lives and believe that we should be empowering individuals through safe and careful instruction of their hearts, minds and bodies.  Equality, diversity, openness, recognition, empowerment and inclusion are the cornerstones of my teaching philosophy.  We ensure that all children are valued, listened to and respected. 

My passion for teaching is probably best manifested through the teaching of young children.  The early years are a magical period of a child’s life and young children are in possession of an innate ability to move, express and create.  Dance offers the ideal conduit for supporting and igniting the development of their natural skills.  Children of this age are also highly unpredictable so teaching dance to them offers a reward yet challenging landscape to our own teaching and creative pursuits. 

In my nineteen years of parenting and my twenty plus years of teaching, I have noted that our children are growing up in an increasingly different world to the one we inhabited as children.  We need to preserve their innocence and unique way of viewing the world.  Preschoolers have the whole world within their grasp and my desire is to enrich and engage the magical and intoxicating years of childhood so we succeed in preserving every child’s innate sense to dance, create and express.

Starting Dance Classes

We are currently enjoying our first classes of the year and over the coming week will be welcoming many new faces to our studio.  This period is sure to prove to be a busy but extremely rewarding one.  Stepping Out is home to a huge amount of little people and we cherish the opportunity to introduce your little ones to the many joys and rewards of dance education.  We know that this is just as exciting and nerve wracking for parents as it is for our tiny dancers so I thought it was important that we all reflect on what this first big step might mean for our tiniest students.  At the core of teaching preschool children is our belief that at this magical period of time, children hold the whole world within their grasp.  It is our greatest desire to preserve the magic of childhood and ignite their learning potential through movement, music and imaginative play.

Our Angelina trial classes present a perfect example of the many little glorious temperaments that make up a typical early years dance class.  We have our shy ones, we enjoy the usually reserved ones who surprise their parents ( and themselves I am sure!), the super confident ones, the seasoned professionals ( third year of dance class anyone?!), the anxious ones, the overwhelmed ones and the ones who feel that their own choreography is probably the most fabulous, especially performed in front of that huge mirror and the silly teacher up front is just a distraction.  ALL of these unique little beings contribute something very special to our class dynamic.  I am in the very enviable position of having experienced many first dance classes and to this day, I remain in awe of what those first steps represent not only over the course of a year but in the bigger scheme of their life and how they will approach the myriad of learning opportunities presented to them over their lifetime.

We have been thrilled to hear news of mass excitement, sensations of butterflies and mad enthusiasm as we all await our first dance classes for the year.  For some of our students they will fling themselves through the door with confidence and ease but for some of our dancers, especially our beginners and our tiny ones.......they might feel more like clinging to their parents or nervous as to what their class will entail, who will be their friend and will they know what to do.  As a three year old, I was the very SHY one.  I clung to my Mum's leg.  I thank my parents every day that they persisted and realised I was just waiting for the opportunity to let myself open to the spell binding and magical world that is dance.

Your teachers are all excited and nervous too.  Stepping Out is also home to an energetic and dynamic bunch of committed teachers who know that along with the joys of being a dance teacher comes a lot of hard work.  Our biggest concern is YOU, our students.  We strive to create a beautiful and supportive environment where everyone feels welcome.  You are all very important to us and we have loved the opportunities to talk to your families, meet new little faces and hear about your goals for the year.  We want to dance alongside you.  We want you to have a haven for your creativity and self expression and most importantly of all, we want you to walk out our doors with confidence, self belief and a huge smile.  Energy is contagious.  We want to surround you with positivity and possibilities.

Parents, especially parents of little people, do know that for some children it will take a few weeks to feel completely at ease in a new learning environment.  It is overwhelming to suddenly leave the security of Mum or Dad, your normal routine and suddenly be in the spotlight in dance class with lots of new faces.  KNOW that it is very normal for your usually very gregarious child to suddenly turn very shy or the child who was up dressed in their tutu by 6am to suddenly be frozen and glued to your hand refusing to budge.  SO, if they just want to watch for a bit or there is tears, it's Ok, in fact it's more than OK, they are still learning and absorbing and bit by bit taking those first tentative steps out into the big world and next time it will be a little easier and a little less daunting.  As teachers, we have had the wealth of experience and the joy of many years helping our little dancers find their wings so we won't bat an eye.  We won't question whether your child is ready or label you a pushy parent.  WE trust and know that each child starts to engage at their own unique time.  It may be immediately or it may be the second or third week of class.  This is all very normal and encouraged.  I, for one am very glad that my parents persevered with my initial efforts as a fledging ballerina.


As mums ourselves, we understand and respect the enormous trust you place in us in the tuition of your children.  We are really proud of our dance curriculum and really want to show you that you have made the right decision in entrusting your child to us.  We do believe it is important that parents are able to witness the content of the class, our teaching philosophies and the knowledge of your teacher.  We know that the most enriching learning opportunities will arise when we have the full attention of your child and are allowed the opportunity to develop a rapport with them and within the dynamics of the class.  Children can be easily hampered by distractions and focus and discipline are important traits of any enthusiastic and engaged learners.  In 2014, we decided to place cameras in our teaching studios to ensure that we could enjoy the best of both worlds.  We have a monitor in our foyer that provides a window into your child's dance class without any of the distractions or differing temperaments that emerge when children have parents or siblings in the class observing them.

You are very welcome to wait in our foyer and be enthralled and entertained by your child's progress or theatrics but we are just as happy if you drop and go.  Trust that our goal is to have your child feel alive and energised within their own body and that we have the best interests of your child and the class at stake.  Even if a little one is teary, please allow us the opportunity to calm them.  Sometimes this special performance is just reserved for Mum or Dad.  If we can't settle a child after a short period, we will send for you.  OUR GOAL IS HAPPY CHILDREN.  Most times. it is less than five minutes and your child is skipping about and any anxiety is quickly forgotten.  If we believe that a child is not coping within the class, we will take your little one to you.  Please allow us the opportunity to get to know what works best for your child. We want your child to colour the world with their own unique colours and learning is all about discovery. We can't wait to see their unique world view and creativity flourish.

FOR OUR CONTINUING STUDENTS, it's ok to be a little nervous or hesitant too.  You've been out of routine and had a long break but your body will remember.  We look forward to getting sore with you and helping you to soar this year.
Together, with the support of parents, we will have happy classes of happy students progressing at their own unique rate in no time.  HAPPY DANCING EVERYONE.  We are looking forward to all the wonderful emotions the first few weeks will stir.
See you in class.