Best Practices for Teaching Workshops

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Through sharing, I have learned to honor my roots, acknowledge my challenges, and move beyond some of the toughest moments of my life. But sharing can be intimidating, because for 90 minutes, I am in the spotlight where I might feel vulnerable and exposed. Aside from the physical preparations, the mental angst is fairly harsh, which is perhaps created by the fact that there is no right or wrong way to do it. It's all dependent on what works for you and the mood of the students who attend. But, there is hope. Whether you are a seasoned instructor or thinking about teaching a class for the first time, there is always something to gain through the experiences of others who have done it. It's a fact that the more you teach, the better you get. Time. 

Here at SpinCo, we have collectively hosted and taught hundreds of classes and workshops. It's about time that we round up and share recommendations from veteran instructors that may save you from making embarrassing mistakes. I truly hope this article helps you have a rewarding teaching experience and all the while, an experience that is fulfilling to your students so they want to come back for more.

Before we begin the composite of cliff notes, it is important to take a moment to write down what you personally hope to gain from your experience of leading a class. Just as students go into class seeking a new skill or trick, setting intentions as a teacher solidifies your purpose for being there and keeps your creative juices flowing, naturally. 

MY INTENTIONS (examples)

  1. Feel comfortable leading a group of people.

  2. Teach 1 move in under 5 minutes and everyone gets it. 

  3. Memorize the name of every person who came to my class. 

Student Feedback

SpinCo acts as a mediator when we help artists host their workshops. Ask your studio if they can be your mediator. We find that having a "middle man" generates more open and honest feedback. 

  • You can let students know that all feedback is anonymous and goes directly to SpinCo first. Here’s the feedback form SpinCo requests from students after each workshop.

  • Feedback form should be emailed to students after the workshop and also posted to all workshop event pages.

  • Plan your class to end 15 minutes before the end of the workshop. Studio time is strict and you will need to leave time to answer questions. Let them know you are available to help. 

  • Ask an all-star student to leave you a public review on your online artist profile page. This is your most valuable tool to building momentum as a teacher.

Preparing for Your Workshop

SpinCo always keeps instructors updated when people register online. Unless there is an time-sensitive offer for advance registration, most students will register week-of. If you would like to learn our business methodology on how to forecast your class size, check out this article.

  • Pay attention to the student/teacher ratio (shoot for 5:1). Appointing an assistant teacher can help those who might fall behind, especially if the curriculum has a tendency to be difficult.
  • Practice what you plan to review in your workshop recap video, so visually-oriented learners can revisit teachings at home. Try to limit to under 3 minutes of material (you can always create focused tutorials later). 

  • Prepare a printed handout to give to students with tricks covered and helpful tips. Include your preferred contact with dates of your next class and additional services you offer.

  • Bring a personal notebook and pen to take notes about each person. 
  • Create a playlist and bring a portable speaker. Just in case you can plug your music into the studio's sound system, always have an aux cord handy.

Arrival & Beginning Your Workshop

“I know this seems like a "given" but some instructors need to be reminded to smile and greet everyone who attends their class. If there's time, try to learn everyone's name. It makes all the shy ones in class feel special.” - Marianna Hunter, Women's Fitness Center (South Philly)

  • Teachers should arrive to the venue at least 30 minutes before class time to greet students as they walk in. Some students arrive to SpinCo workshops up to 30 minutes before.

  • To signal the start of class, introduce yourself as the teacher while gathering all students in a seated circle. Share your name, artistic background, and what you will be teaching. Then ask each student to take turns sharing what they are most excited to learn. Write it down. 

  • *Very important* Let students know that it's totally okay if they don't master a technique or a move right away. With enough practice, they will get it. Emphasize not comparing themselves to the other students.

  • Let class know you have a lesson plan but are flexible. Check in with your students- ask them how they're doing. If they are struggling, break down what you are trying to teach them. Always give encouraging feedback.

Keeping Time & Covering Material

Much of the material you planned to cover, you won’t. Working with multiple levels is difficult and due to the nature of dance movement arts, skill levels are defined by the majority of what’s in the room. Expect to accommodate a variety of levels and dance styles, regardless if the class was marketed “Intro” “Intermediate” or “Advanced” because flow arts tend to be a fusion of dance styles and in many cases, no dance experience is needed at all. Have an idea of what different styles you could encounter so you can address those styles at the beginning of class and provide a brief history of its origin for the more concept-oriented learners.

  • Ask someone to help you keep time with non-verbal signals.
  • Ask students to position themselves on the floor according to what they feel their skill level is (left, middle, right).

  • Before moving to on to the next section of your planned material, ask  students if they wish to move on or need more time.
  • Focus on the basics! It's more important that you cover the fundamental of each trick or concept noted in your curriculum than spending time reviewing every variation. If you find 1 student is not ready to move on, kindly write down their question so you can address near the end of class.

  • Add a choreographed sequence that is performed at the end of class for students to build onto. Happens all the time that a routine learned in class is organically performed at jams!

Promotion

  • Introduce yourself on the event page. Let students know you are excited to teach. Enthusiasm is contagious!

  • Make it clear in the description to interested students about the prerequisites of tricks/concepts you will cover, if any. 

  • Make daily posts on your FB event page with enticing photos and VIDEOS of what you are teaching. Share the most exciting posts directly from your FB event page to locally based online groups.

  • Communicate your class cap and reward those who sign-up in advance. "Limited online tickets available! Cash at door only (always $5 more than online), but only if spots are still available."

"Hand out little stickers at the end of class; they really like it and put them on their water bottles." - Marianna Hunter

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