It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal learning.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Do you have something at the back of your mind that you keep meaning to find out more about? Is there a dance teaching topic or issue makes you so curious that it motivates you to pick up a book, explore the internet, talk to a colleague to satisfy your curiosity? I always find that following my curiosity about a topic makes it easier to learn because I want to know more about the topic. I might start out being curious about one topic and through exploring that I also discover that I want to know more about other, related, topics too.
Formal or structured learning is important so that we learn lots of essential stuff about being a dance teacher but curiosity can help us to broaden our knowledge, skills and understanding by opening us up to new things.
My own interest in ethics and dance developed from the formal learning I did in ethics for health education. This encouraged me to look at my profession of dance teaching with different eyes and I became curious and motivated about the ethical aspects of dance and dance teacher development. This was 20 years ago and I have been studying and researching ethics in relating to dance ever since.
Of course I am not suggesting that you want to take it to this depth. Following your curiosity is just as important when it helps you discover an individual nugget of information that you can use in your day-to-day teaching. Or where it clarifies something that you have wondered about. No matter how long we have taught there is always more we can learn that can help us to be better at what we do. Being curious enough to explore something new benefits our students as it encourages us to have fresh ideas and approaches.
Injury (whether it is you or one of your student’s that is injured) is a great motivator for more knowledge and understanding. This might be because you want to understand the injury so that you can offer rehab exercises or perhaps you want to help a student who is returning to class after being away for some time following an injury.
Teaching issues that arise in class can also makes us want to head for, the books, the internet or phone a (knowledgeable) friend. We might be looking for technical information about a particular step or fresh ideas about how to help a student improve their ability to turn or jump higher. It might be that a class of young children are being particularly difficult to teach and you want to find some ideas about how to engage their attention more successfully. The key thing is that you are fired up wanting to know more about the issue – I find that this is a great time for doing some learning and development (CPD).
Networking with other dance teachers and educators is also an excellent way to generate curiosity and motivation. Chatting to other professionals about issues related to dance teaching can give you information, knowledge and ideas. It also gives us an opportunity to debate issues, exchange ideas about teaching practice and fire us up to think about our teaching practice in new or different ways.
How often do you give in to your curiosity? Little and often is good – regular exploration for new information is a good habit to get into to. Then reflecting on what you discover and how it might benefit your practice makes it useful for you and your students. But even if you only give in to your curiosity about dance teaching once in a while it is still well worth doing (and you might find that it makes you want to give in to your curiosity more often).