Being a dance teacher is often thought to be just about telling others what to do and how to do it. But an essential part of teaching is about listening to our learners. Listening to them helps us to know if they have understood what we have asked them to do. Listening to them helps to guide us, as their teacher, to things that we need to pay attention to. When we give a correction or adjustment to alignment we cannot know how the change feels for the dancer so we need to ask and then listen carefully to the answer. The responses we get helps us to know more about how the dancer understands our teaching.
If we do not ask our students questions about their learning and our teaching, and importantly listen to what they say, then we are missing out on a lot of vital information that can help to develop our teaching approaches and methods. Listening to our students helps them to feel involved in the learning process – they feel able to contribute. Listening to what our students believe needs to be corrected or adjusted helps us to find out what they are focusing on and to compare this with what we are paying attention to.
Listening to student feedback at the end of class helps us to find out how our learner reflections compare or contrast with our own teacher reflections. Listening to our learners helps us to create and support a collaborative learning environment where both learner and teacher take responsibility for the learning.
What do you hear when you listen to your students? Do you hear your own inner voice wanting to cut the student off before he or she has finished the sentence – are you listening to your own inner voice rather than listening to your student? Or do you try to understand him/her even if their explanation seems a bit muddled – are you prepared to really listen to your students’ thoughts about their learning experiences?