If the pandemic has made us realise one main thing, it’s how important it is to create an environment where students LOVE to dance.
For the sheer enjoyment of it, and nothing else.
Aside from the anxiety many have felt from the recent lockdown period, social media is undoubtedly young people’s biggest issue right now when it comes to anxiety.
But what about the more subtle in-person behaviours they might feel from peers and friendship groups in class they aren’t part of, which can also chip away at self-esteem…
How can we make sure our dance schools continue to be a ‘safe’ space for them mentally, and one that they want to keep returning to again and again?
And how can we help our older students avoid additional stress at dancing, on top of whatever is going on in their world outside?
When anxiety is heightened during stressful times, it’s easy for young minds to fall into thinking traps triggered by the smallest actions of others, giving them overwhelming feelings of embarrassment, self-consciousness, or feelings of being ‘less than good enough’.
For example, consider how you currently react if you ever see any of your students eye-rolling, giggling, or whispering.
It’s such a tricky thing to navigate because, on the one hand, they’re not necessarily doing anything directly wrong directly.
But making this kind of toxic behaviour unacceptable, explaining how it can make others feel and doing so through gentle discussion can really help.
So, how do we get the atmosphere we want in our classes?
Cue – Your Class Manifesto! (fanfares blowing)
What is a class manifesto, we hear you cry?
You might already have something similar in place at your dance school, like a code of conduct or set of class rules, but a manifesto is slightly different…
An effective class manifesto indicates a desired atmosphere and ‘feeling’ you want students to have in the class, rather than a set of rules to be obeyed.
Overall you want your manifesto to be light and confidence-boosting, even when students just read it, and it should feel like something everyone in the class is responsible for creating.
A great class manifesto can inspire even the youngest of dancers and if upheld it can allow the self-esteem and mental well being of every child in the room to grow without hindrance.
Great! Where do I start?
You can introduce a class manifesto at any time, it doesn’t have to be a new class or new students.
We highly recommend you get the students to create it with you!
Literally sit down with pens and a big sheet of paper at the start of a session, gathering ideas about what they want to FEEL like in their classes. Make it more about this rather than achievement based.
Doing this with your students will make it easier and more natural for the atmosphere to begin altering (if it isn’t already the way you/they want it to be). It will give them ownership of it and help them avoid any misinterpretations.
Furthermore, to help it really land, encourage discussion of the points they want to include and ask them for example scenarios to illustrate. For example, to use the previous scenario, if whispering and giggling are things that make them feel self-conscious in class, ask them how they can incorporate this into the manifesto in a positive way? (rather than a ‘don’t do this’ sentence) And what as a group do they actually class as ‘unacceptable’ in terms of giggling…?
You may be thinking, this is all very nice and ‘cute’ but how does this help you as a teacher to increase their potential and talent?
The point of developing this manifesto is so that everyone feels safe in the class and able to perform at their best.
This exercise is two-fold in terms of talent development.
It begins to create the right ‘climate’ to help your young dancers to grow and thrive in TWO ways; the first of which we’ve highlighted here; it creates a place all your dancers all feel safe to be themselves and to dance at their absolute best. To a point where they will always want to keep coming back, even through challenges and changes they may face as they move into their teens and the pressures of senior school.
Later this week, we’ll talk about the SECOND way a class manifesto can help develop your teenage dancers on an even deeper level…
Until then, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Do you already have a class manifesto? What’s the one thing you think most important it includes? Is there anything you’ve read here that’s inspired you to update or create it with your dancers this term? x